Stew is wonderfully unfashionable. Most cookbooks don’t have a Table of Contents entry, let alone an index entry, for it. I looked through many of high-concept, glossy cookbooks on my shelf before settling on this recipe for Chulitna Moosemeat Stew from the Best of the Best From Alaska Cookbook. This cookbook, with its humble cerlox binding (much favoured by community and fundraiser cookbooks) was a birthday gift from my in-laws who went to Alaska last summer. And now I’ve cooked from it, thanks to the organizers of this month’s WCC. Phew.
It was the perfect day for stew: outside, the winds were blowing at about 60 km/hr and up, and it was pissing rain in the bargain. And inside, I was bored and stir-crazy because I just finished school and my job. Wandering aimlessly and waiting for 90210 to start, I needed some cooking-as-project to do. This recipe requires some prep work and almost 3 hours of cooking, so it is definitely not a throw together after work affair. But it’s deelish, and definitely worth the work and the wait.
The recipe comes from the Riversong Lodge in Alaska – they serve it to racers in the Idataski, a long-distance ski race. According to the cookbook, they can’t serve moosemeat to regular guests, so they make it with beef most of the time. Which is what I’ve done here because moose are scarce around Vancouver.

Chulitna Moosemeat Stew

6 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 lbs of moosemeat or beef, cut into bite-sized cubes
Salt and pepper
10 pearl onions, peeled
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup beef stock
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed with the flat of a knife
1-2 strips of fresh orange peel (I used the peel from a mandarin)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with 3-4 whole cloves
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thick
4 large carrots, peeled, OR two handfuls of baby carrots, sliced thick

Starting about 3 to 3 1/2 hours before you want to eat, heat a large frying pan or saucepan over medium heat, and fry the bacon until it’s all brown and crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and place it in a large, oven-safe casserole dish. Do not drain the pan.

Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, and cook it in the pan until the cubes are nice and brown on all sides (do the meat in batches if you have to.) Remove the meat to the casserole dish, reserving the juices in the pan.

Add the small onions and potatoes to the pan, and cook them until they are just a little brown and softened. While doing this, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the cooked onions and potatoes to the casserole dish.

If there are lots of pan juices left, add the flour to them and whisk to thicken. (In my case, the potatoes and onions soaked up most of the meat juices, so there was hardly any juice to add flour to.) When the flour and pan juices are bubbling (shouldn’t take long) pour in the red wine, beef broth and brandy. (Another substitution: I had no brandy, so I just dosed the mixture with a bit of apricot brandy…)

When the mixture thickens just a tad, add the garlic, orange peels, marjoram and thyme, and stir to combine.

Place the clove-studded onion in the center of the casserole dish, and pour the liquid over everything. (Be sure you’re using a big dish – 2.5 to 3 L, at least.)

Place a lid on the casserole dish and bake for about 2 1/2 hours. If you wish, stir every once in awhile and taste the delicious liquid. When there is about 45 minutes to go, add the sliced mushrooms and carrots, and cook them until the carrots are tender.

Beef Stew

To serve, remove the clove-studded onion and discard. Ladle the stew into big bowls and serve with rice or buttered buns, and red, red wine. Serves 4.

Beef stew

Because this cooks for so long by its lil’ ol’ self, there’s plenty of time to whip up some dessert. So, because I had some apples sitting around in the fridge, I decided to make my favourite comfort food dessert: Apple Crisp. It can be baked in the oven while you’re eating the stew.

I made this for two, but you can multiply as needed.

For the apples, get:

3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
smidge of lemon juice (to keep the apples from turning brown)
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
3 tablespoons of sugar

Mix the ingredients together in a small casserole dish. It should fill up one-half to two-thirds of the dish.

For the topping get:

1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
dash of cinnamon

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until it’s a nice crumbly consistency and the butter is incorporated into the other ingredients.

Pour the topping mixture over the apples, and bake in the 325 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbly underneath.

Serve plain, or with vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crisp

I hate ice cream.

Watch for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge round-up at