How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lumberjack Stew

In Casa Hayes-Boh, the Sedaris family is a favorite source of high-brow/low-brow humor. We have read and heard almost everything brother David has written, and have made a couple of pilgrimages to see him in person. He once even gave us cake mix, and his inscription "...with the honor of meeting bakers ..." makes his copy of Holidays on Ice one of our household's great treasures. David specializes in tawdry word play for the NPR set; his twisted sister Amy takes the family business to a new level, most notably as a middle-aged former sex worker attending high school in Strangers with Candy.

Amy has a distinctly domestic side that is expressed -- with a bit of a twist -- in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which has been our guide for a couple other Nueva Receta entries. The book offers recipes in the context of entire home-entertainment events organized around a particular kind of guest.

As the title of this post suggests, for a few pages she applies her fertile imagination to the prospect of a visiting lumberjack. Queue up the obligatory musical reference, which my own Male Bonding Band has been known to perform on occasion.

Welcome back ...

Amy's Lumberjack Crosscut Stump Stew is part of a (fantasized) evening's entertainment with a strapping arborist, for whom she would also prepare a stack of white bread and her Lumberjack's Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. She also suggests a series of gift ideas for visiting lumberjacks, from an ax guard to tea tree oil shampoo.

The stew itself is rather simple to prepare -- we adapted it slightly to the cookware we have in our smaller kitchen at our Whaling House in Fairhaven. We began with very good, very local beef that we acquired at the farmer's market held each Sunday at Fairhaven High School (a.k.a. Hogwarts -- have a look). It was packaged specifically as stew beef by  J.H. Beaulieu Livestock and Produce Farm in Fairhaven, scarcely a mile away.

I browned the cubed beef in olive oil on high heat and then transferred it to a crock pot (not the casserole that Sedaris calls for). I then cooked a chopped onion and two minced cloves of garlic in the same pan the beef had been in, and added crushed tomatoes (she calls for puree), red wine, and a bit of balsamic (in place of white vinegar). To this I added a bit of sugar (trusting in Amy), salt, pepper, whole cloves and a stick of cinammon. I simmered them all together briefly and then transferred the whole mess to the crock pot.

After one hour, I boiled a package (10 ounces) of pearl onions in water, rinsed them and removed the outer skins, and then added them to the pot for another hour and a half of stewing. (NOTE: Pearl onions are great, though working with them is tedious.)

Meanwhile, Pam prepared drop biscuits from our kitchen bible by Deborah Madison. We enjoyed the biscuits along with some local cinnamon apple sauce, local milk (for Pam) and the decidedly non-local Malbec that had been used in the stew (for James).

The result -- a delicious, hearty stew that served as both lunch and dinner, with perfectly autumnal spice. As good as it was, it will be even better next time, when I will cook it at least an hour longer to make sure that the local, lean  beef has time to get uniformly tender.

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