Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Candy's Squash, Beef, and Pumpkin Pie Spice Stew

One of the best clients I have is also one of my very dear friends, whom I met while we were members of the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. Candy Wallace is the founder and executive director of the American Personal and Private Chef Association. She hired me about three years ago to write their blog, à la minute, and run their social media accounts. It's been the greatest of pleasures--especially since the gig also requires that we meet regularly to discuss strategy. And when we meet at her home, Candy makes lunch.

Last week, we got together and Candy presented me with this absolutely killer Squash, Beef, Pumpkin Pie Spice Stew. If I could, I would have dived straight into the bubbling pot on her stove and eaten my way out. The stew is thick and has the most marvelous texture, thanks to the combination of cubed beef tips, ground beef, butternut squash, and masa. The flavor is beautifully complex--a blend of herbs and vegetables,wine, and spices like cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. In fact, it's great to know that just because you buy the spice to make pie, you can use it in a whole host of other dishes--like this stew.

Now, while the stew itself is straightforward enough to make, the key to the great flavors is, of course, making it a day ahead of when you want to serve it. That way the flavors fully develop.

Since San Diego's finally cooling down (of course, having just written this, we'll have a heat wave again), we're finding that a good hearty stew is now a welcome dish. This one will make you sigh with pleasure.

Squash, Beef, and Pumpkin Pie Spice Stew
from Candy Wallace
6-8 Servings

Measure, combine, and divide into 2 prep cups and set aside:
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Stewpot:
Olive oil to brown
1 to 1 ½ lbs cubed beef tips
1 cup chopped onion
1 Chopped/seeded red bell pepper
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3  Tbsp El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (small yellow can)
1 ½ lb ground beef
Tbsp masa
1 ½ cups beef stock
1 ½ cups red table wine
1 peeled, seeded, cubed butternut squash
2-3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 large cinnamon sticks
Salt & pepper to taste

Sear beef cubes in hot oil in stewpot over high heat and broadcast contents of 1 prep cup of spice mixture over top. Stir occasionally for approximately 5 minutes till beef is browned on all sides.  Remove cubes and set aside. You will not be able to drain fat from pot once it combines with spice mixture which becomes paste like consistency.

Reduce heat, add next 5 ingredients, stirring until softened, fragrant, and red in color, approx.. 8-10 minutes. Add ground beef and broadcast contents of prep cup spice mix prep cup #2 over top. Stir occasionally until browned.

Stir in the remainder of ingredients and bring to a boil, reducing heat to low simmer till thickened by cornmeal and tenderizing squash and beef tips. This will take approximately 45 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks.

Cooling and refrigerating the stew overnight makes it possible to skim the fat from the top of the dish and allow flavors to develop before heating, adjusting for necessary salt and pepper and serving.

Serve with hot cornbread muffins and crisp green salad.

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