Beef and pimentón stew, fried potatoes.

Ah, another Sunday night dinner courtesy of José Pizarro's cookbook.  I think a requirement of a good stew is hours of cooking time, in fact I think it tastes even better the second day, that is if leftovers exist (in this flat, it does not).  When all executed correctly, this stew takes more than 4 hours, not for the inpatient or hungry, but perfect for a chilly autumn afternoon.

-3 dried choricero peppers. I had no idea what this was until I went to Borough Market to ask.  Not so mysterious, it's a very red dried pepper that needs to be reconstituted in water.
-25g dried wild mushrooms
-1.5kg chuck steak, roughly cut in cubes
-olive oil
-100g diced pancetta
-2 chopped white onions
-10 sliced garlic cloves
-2 tbsp of bittersweet (agridulce) pimentón (Spanish paprika)
-1/3 bottle of white wine
-4 chopped tomatos or 1 can
-1 tbsp chopped rosemary
-4 bay leaves
-3 red peppers
-salt and pepper

The process starts with reconstituting both the choricero peppers and the dried wild mushrooms.  Put them in separate bowls of boiling water, cover and soak for an hour.  These two ingredients are really crucial to the stew so think twice about skipping this part.

Next step is to brown the steak in olive oil with salt and pepper.  It only takes 2-3 mins per batch, and then can be transferred to a plate to use later.

After the mushrooms and choricero peppers have soaked for an hour, remove them but save the water from the mushrooms.  Then the fun messy part, scrap the flesh away from the pepper and remove the skin.  There isn't a whole lot of flesh to work with but it's deeply intense in flavor so it goes a long way.
Then we start throwing everything into the stew starting with oil, pancetta and onions.  Stir until the onions are near translucent and then add the garlic, soaked wild mushrooms and pimentón.  Then add the wine and reduce for a few minutes.  Next comes the beef along with it's juices, tomatoes, herbs, pepper flesh, mushroom liquid and if needed, some water to just cover the beef.  This is simmered for about 3 hours and it begins to smell like a Spanish kitchen.

While the stew is simmering, roast the red peppers.  Without a grill and too intimidated to roast over the gas stove, I find roasting whole in the oven on high temperature is the easiest, there isn't even a need for a pan.  It takes about 20 mins and is so much better than store bought jarred red pepper.  Peel the skin off, cut into strips and add to the stew at the very end.  Of course, we couldn't resist adding chopped cilantro.

I think beef stew is such a traditional dish, and dare I say it, a bit ordinary.  This stew is unlike the rest, the combination of the pimentón, choricero peppers and dried mushrooms make it deeply rich and smokey.  I also enjoyed eating the actual mushrooms as they had a chewy texture that reminds me of Chinese wood ear.

Usually I'd want a thick slice of garlic bread to go with a stew this hearty.  But we decided to stick with Spanish tradition by oven frying sliced baby potatoes with generous olive oil, salt and pepper.


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