Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tweaking with Curtis Stone

Heh. Bet that title got your attention, 
didn't it?! Did I make you grin just now?
Sorry to disappoint, that's not a typo.
And the only tweaking going on around here
is in the kitchen. With recipes and such.

Earlier in the fall, I saw cutie-patootie chef Curtis Stone make a dish that he called Savory Beef Cobbler. I had actually originally seen him make it on Matt's show, err, The Today Show about a year ago and noted then that it looked yummy. But the original recipe is more time intensive than I usually have on a regular weekday. So, while it looked delectable, making it from scratch was not on my horizon at all. Especially since I knew that Mei Mei's surgery was approaching quickly. Time to play in the kitchen has been a rare commodity since her procedure and I'm trying to simplify where ever I can.

I knew that I had stashed a good amount of leftover London Broil from one meal and roast beef in its own juices from yet another meal, so I knew I'd have enough beef and broth to make my own version of the dish. This week's snow storm provided the perfect opportunity to play around and tweak things for a similar feel with some short-cut steps.  If you love to putter in the kitchen and have some time to try the original (link above) from scratch, PLEASE let me know how yours turned out. In the meantime, here's what my tweaking produced!

I chopped up about 4 cups of medium rare thawed London Broil, enough to cover the bottom of my deep, heavy Pampered Chef baker. On top of that, I layered 1 medium-sized rutabaga that I chopped slightly smaller than the meat pieces. You can use white or golden potatoes if you prefer. Over that, I poured two cans of store bought gravy and about 1-2 cups of the beef broth.

I added about 3-4 cups of steamed, drained mixed vegetables. (Seriously, ladies. You should always have at least one or two large bags of mixed veggies. They are SO versatile!)

Don't forget, you don't have to get the fancy ones.
It's just how we roll here!

I almost forgot to add the mushrooms but we chopped them up quickly and threw them in before it was too late. This time around, I used the whole 12 ounce container of baby bellas. The original recipe called for a hearty red wine but we didn't have any in the house this week, so I added more mushrooms than I normally would use. 

I lightly seasoned it all with parsley, rosemary, thyme, and basil and mixed it well. I popped the top on that baker (boy, that thing is a beast!) and stuck it in the oven at 400 for 1 hour. If I was more on the ball, I'd have done it at 300 for 2 or so hours but I started late and that baker doesn't really overcook anything, so I was safe in the attempt.

(Remember the old one that used the 9x13 baker
as its lid for a stone dutch oven?
LOVE mine for this big ole gang of eaters!)

While that was stewing and simmering all its flavors together, I mixed up the dumplings. Again, in the interest of speeding things along, I used 2 cups of baking mix with one stick of softened butter. I generously seasoned the dumpling mixture with the same spices as the beef mixture.

But to make them extra rich and delectable, I added a lovely pre-shredded mix of Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano. About 1/3 cup went into the dough, reserving another 1/3 cup for the top of the biscuits when they are baking in the stew.

Keep the biscuit dough very loose, mixing in milk 
a little at a time until it's about the consistency
of oatmeal cookie dough, or even a little wetter.

Once the stew was bubbling nicely, I used my cookie scoop to drop the dumpling mix all across the top of the stew mixture. I topped the dish with the rest of the cheese blend and allow the dumplings to cook for a couple minutes more. 

Be careful not to let them crisp up, the dumplings really should be soft and gooey for this dish. Using the cover again while it bakes really helps with this. Remove the lid at the very end to let the cheese get a little golden if you like.

This was a huge hit and everyone (except the two youngest who are naysayers of all things veggie most nights) agreed that making it again would be an excellent idea. We didn't miss the wine at all this time around but I will be using it next time to experiment with the flavors. Next time I won't use as much additional broth. The mushrooms and the rutabagas generated a lot of juices while cooking, so before I added the dumplings, I actually had to pull off about 1-1/2 cups of juices to keep the stew from being too runny. That will make a great base to the beef barley soup I'm planning for later in the week. I also think next time, I'll throw in some flour or cornstarch and stir it in really well before baking, as this gang really prefers their stew meals to be thicker.

So tell me, what have you been playing with in the kitchen? Any other comfort foods that you've been tweaking for your dinner table? I'd love for you to share in the comments!