Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recipe: Peppery Beef Stew (Μοσχάρι και Πιπέρι Ραγκού)

My January no-shopping pledge is reaping surprising benefits, including this scrumptious stew.

Beef stew meat bought on sale several months ago recently surfaced in my freezer purge. When I put the meat in the refrigerator to defrost, I had to move a bag of red peppers out of the way. The peppers needed to be used, so I decided to combine them with the beef in a stew.

I’d been reading about Peposo, a peppery Italian stew, supposedly created to placate Brunelleschi’s tile workers on the Florence Duomo (it didn’t work; they went out on strike). A healthy dose of invigorating pepper was the perfect finish for my flavorful stew.

Because black pepper is a central flavor in this dish, it is essential to use high quality peppercorns and crush them just before adding to the stew. Supermarket ground black pepper can contain adulterants, and tastes like dust when compared to freshly crushed peppercorns.

High quality Tellicherry peppercorns from Mount Tellicherry in India are my favorites. Because they are left on the vine longer before being picked, Tellicherries are larger and have a deeper, richer flavor than other peppercorns.

I recently tried organic Ecuadorian peppercorns, and they were hotter than Tellicherry, but with less complex flavors. Although the Ecuadorian peppercorns were good, I’m sticking with Tellicherry.

Peppery Beef Stew was created by chance. The meat came randomly out of the freezer, red bell peppers happened to catch my eye, and a story about peppercorns captured my imagination. The serendipity was fortuitous; Peppery Beef Stew is fantastic.

Peppery Beef StewPeppery Beef Stew (Μοσχάρι και Πιπέρι Ραγκού)
Serves 6
This stew is intended to be quite peppery, but you can adjust the amount of pepper according to your taste. I prefer serving stew with parsley potatoes on the side, but sometimes cook potatoes in the stew, as I did last night. If you want potatoes in the stew, add peeled and chunked potatoes after the stew has simmered for 30 minutes.

2 pounds beef stew meat, or beef chuck roast cut in 2” chunks, fat removed

1 cup diced onion, 3/4 inch dice
1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4” piece of lemon peel
3 cups red wine

2 Tbsp. olive oil (omit if using bacon instead of pancetta)
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/2” pieces
4 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
4 cups diced red bell pepper, 3/4” dice (4 peppers)
1 cup diced carrots, 1/4” dice
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 - 3 tsp. crushed black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
3 bay leaves
3 cups beef stock

Wash the meat and dry it. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl or zip-lock bag, add the meat, stir well, refrigerate, and marinate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Drain the meat in a colander, and reserve the liquid portion of the marinade. Separate the meat from the solids, and discard all solids but the meat (be sure to throw away the large piece of lemon peel). Dry the meat very well, and season it with salt.

In a Dutch oven, sauté the pancetta in olive oil until the pancetta pieces are crispy. Remove the cooked pancetta, drain on a paper towel, and reserve.

Brown the meat in the oil from the pancetta, adding olive oil if necessary. Do this in batches; if you crowd the meat when you are trying to brown it, the meat will steam and won't brown properly. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve it in a container that will catch the meat juices.

Using the same pan, sauté the onions, pepper, and carrots, lightly seasoned with salt, until the onions soften and begin to turn translucent (add olive oil if there is insufficient oil remaining in the pan). As you cook the vegetables, scrape up any brown bits left on the bottom of the pan from browning the meat. Stir in the garlic, crushed black pepper, and thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the reserved marinade, bay leaves, beef stock, cooked pancetta, meat and its juices. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender.

Remove the cover and bubble the stew over medium heat until the liquid is the consistency you desire.

Serve with boiled potatoes tossed with parsley and olive oil.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by
Rinku of Cooking in Westchester.


Anonymous said...

Another delicious creation Laurie. I've never used crushed peppercorns in a stew and the idea sounds appealing. And to think you can mop up all the juices with that lovely bread you made. Can't wait to try this when the weather cools down a little.

Peter M said...

Laurie, NOSTIMOTITO! A hearty Greek dish, great for bread and no Alaskan winter can stop this dish!

Kalyn Denny said...

It sounds so delicious! This is just the kind of thing I love to make in the winter. I buy the Tellicherry peppercorns online from Penzeys, and I agree they're great.

Ivy said...

NOSTIMOTATO, as Peter says. I can imagine that stew with pasta as well. Have you ever made sofrito. It's a similar stew again of Italian origin.

test it comm said...

Pepper and beef stew sounds tasty. It is often fun trying to come up with ways of using odds and ends in your fridge and freezer.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I love beef with black pepper.

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter, I've always thought that the juices you mop up with bread are the best part of stews like this. And it's definitely winter fare. Thank you for the kind words.

Peter M, delicious indeed! Thanks!

Kalyn, yes Penzeys has good Tellicherry peppers. I also like ordering from and -- all three places consistently have good quality spices.

Ivy, I love sofrito, it's really good.

Kevin, for some strange reason, I always make my best food using leftovers, or random contents of my refrigerator. When I plan things out, I often struggle to get the flavors right.

Ann, thanks, I love it too!

Anonymous said...

I like the sound of lots of pepper in the stew. Would like to try this one out once we harvest our peppercorns in a few weeks...

Cris said...

Love the idea of marinating the stew first, I've never done this before, no wonder why they taste good only the day after when I fix mine...

ostwestwind said...

I like all the pepper in the recipe, thanks for sharing.

Ulrike from

Laurie Constantino said...

Oh Scientist, I would love to harvest my own peppercorns and to cook with ones I grew. It sounds wonderful!

Cris - I think all stews get better with time!

Ulrike, glad you like it!