This beef stew with polenta is a tribute to my fabulous mother, Maria.
When I was a kid, one thing I really enjoyed was Sunday lunches with my family, especially if mom cooked her traditional Greek beef stew with mashed potatoes. What made this dish so special was the potatoes, they were more like potato soup than mashed. I took my time eating them, one spoonful at a time, it was a ritual. It took me forever to finish but felt glorious!
I am recreating this Sunday lunch dish with my own take. Instead of “soupy” mashed potatoes I am making delicious “soupy” polenta. The beef stew is pretty much the same apart of some pancetta for the robust flavor and rainbow carrots in place of regular ones. Because, well rainbow carrots sound like so much fun…
This recipe serves 6-8 people depending on your appetite!
the beef stew
1 and 1/2 cup pancetta, diced
2 pounds of beef chuck, cut into1 and 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups of beef stock preferably unsalted
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
small bunch of fresh thyme
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
cooking time 2 hours and 15 minutes
2 cups of polenta
8 cups of water (or more depending on how “soupy” you want it)
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup Greek kefalotiri cheese, grated
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
cooking time 45-60 min
make the beef stew
In a large cast iron pot, add the pancetta cubes, stirring and turning the pieces often, for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, until they slightly caramelized for about 5 minutes. Add the beef cubes, turn the pieces often until they all have a light brown crust. Add the rainbow carrots. Stir in the beef stock. Add the bay leaf, thyme, cloves and salt and pepper. Cover and place pot in a preheated oven of 350 F and cook for about two hours. When it’s done you might need to adjust salt and pepper to taste.
while stew cooks make the polenta
Add water in a medium-size heavy sauce pan over high heat. Pour cornmeal slowly into water, stirring with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. Continue stirring as mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If polenta becomes quite thick, thin it with 1/2 cup water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more water as necessary, to keep polenta soft enough to stir. Adjust salt and add pepper if you wish. Add 1/2 stick of butter to pot and stir well. Add 1 cup of kefalotiri cheese.
Stir polenta well well before spooning into low soup bowls. Top with the beef stew. Sprinkle with some kefalotiri and enjoy!