Cuban Beef Stew (Carne Guisado)

Most of the Fall colored leaves have fallen, temperatures are staying cooler, and Christmas is only 40 days away (yes, 40). I knew the request for Carne Guisado wasn’t far behind, and it came earlier today. My husband, Dean, is half Cuban; his mother, Blanca, is from a small village called Moron. She has been in the United States for many decades, but the family’s roots run deep, and their cuisine is a big part of the culture.

I love to cook, and learning to make my husband’s favorite dishes was seriously intimidating when I was a young bride. Now, twenty-two years later, I’ve edited, changed, and updated many of the recipes, and enjoy sharing the food with friends and family.

Here is my version of Cuban Beef Stew:

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more

1 large white onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, choppedDsc_0517

7 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds sirloin tip, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup pinot noir

1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1/3 cup pimento stuffed Spanish green olives

1/4 cup golden raisins

2 bay leaves

1 cup water

4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large saute’ pan. Add onions, peppers, salt, pepper and cook until transparent. Do not let them brown. Add the minced garlic and saute’ for two more minutes.

While the vegetables cook spread the meat cubes out into a single layer and lightly salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Shake off any excess flour. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil into the pan. Place some of the seasoned meat cubes into the hot saute’ pan and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and repeat this step until all the meat is browned. Tip: it is important to do the meat in batches or it will not brown and an entire layer of flavor will be lost.

Dsc_0518Put the vegetables and meat back into the pan, add oregano, cumin and cook for two minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, olives, raisins and bay leaves. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add just enough water. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to low. Allow to simmer for 1 hour. After an hour stir the stew, put the cover back on and simmer 30 minutes. Check the stew and make sure it isn’t getting too thick, if it is add a touch of water. Cook another 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and parsnips, cover the pan, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Notes: If carrots and parsnips aren’t your thing then use peeled potatoes cut into large chunks. I use a variety of vegetables in this stew, but the one I did today is our favorite. We eat it with white rice, and leftovers are super yummy.

Dear Mother-in-Law

Ariel-the-little-mermaid-6538231-236-297Have you ever wondered why so many of the mothers in Disney movies are dead? Arial had a Dad, sure he was a King, but he had no Queen. I wonder if Prince Eric would have been so crazy about his little mermaid had there been a Queen Triton? Then there is Jasmine, another princess, whose Queen mother was a member of the dearly departed club. Would Aladdin (also without a mother) have taken Jasmine on that magic carpet ride had her Mother wanted to tag along?

I’m no Disney princess, but I have to wonder what do the animator story tellers know about mother-in-laws that I don’t? Perhaps it is because mother-in-laws get a bad rap. Maybe it is just the simple fact that in the middle of these animated love stories a mother-in-law just isn’t romantic.

I have to agree because my mother-in-law, of over twenty years, is many things, but one of them is definitely not romantic. I have seen this little woman bring a room of happy joyful people and turn into a dreadful, sighing, eye rolling, head shaking situation where people are seeking the nearest escape route.

OK, so you get it. I have some mother-in-law issues. My latest issue is she sent me a gift. What? A gift? How ungrateful I must be to complain about a mother-in-law who gives presents.jasmine

The gift she sent me is four large containers of organic granola. I love organic and  I like granola, but this otherwise healthy snack has tree nuts. Why should I complain? I’m allergic to tree nuts! This fact is well known by family, friends, co-workers, and I’m sure general acquaintances.

This isn’t even the first time she has made this “error”. It isn’t even the second or third. She will be reminded of my allergy and will (like always) pretend to have forgotten. Then I will give the granola to friends to enjoy.

Maybe Disney doesn’t just find mother-in-laws unromantic, but they also know that the princesses shouldn’t go into anaphylaxis because that would ruin the happily ever after. Perhaps Disney can write my mother-in-law a note.