Cold weather makes me wish for companions around the table to share warmth and comfort from each other as well as from the food. Beef stew is a natural selection for such an occasion. Parsnips, with their celery-like flavor and hint of sweet potato, are a fitting companion in the pot. The stew is cooked in a pressure cooker, saving time and energy, then its liquid is quickly reduced on the stove top to achieve that depth of flavor associated with lengthy oven cooking. The side of homemade cranberry conserve gives the meal a ruby glow to light the darkening days, come together, eat, drink, and be merry.
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 3/ 4 pounds English cut (flanken) beef short ribs, cut between the bones
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/ 2 cups (about 2 medium) leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/ 2-inch rounds
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 medium parsnips (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/ 2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large pressure cooker. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In two batches, brown them over medium-high heat, removing the browned pieces to a plate after the first batch. Add the wine and tomato paste to the pot and stir to mix. Add the leek, bay leaf, thyme, and first batch of browned beef, along with any accumulated juices. Lock on the lid and bring to pressure over high heat, 3 to 4 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes while the pressure subsides.
3. With the steam vent pointed away from your face, gently release any remaining pressure. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and transfer the meat and leeks to a serving dish. Set aside in a warm place.
4. Add the parsnips and cook until the liquid is reduced by one third and the parsnips are al dente, about 5 minutes. Add them to the beef dish. Pour the liquid into a small bowl and set it aside in the freezer for the fat to rise and congeal at the top, 10 minutes.
5. Skim off the fat and reheat the liquid in the microwave or small sauce pan on the stove top. Pour it over the dish and sprinkle the dill overall. Serve with the cranberry sauce on the side.
Nothing could be simpler than cooking up a cranberry conserve. A little sugar to sweeten the fruit’s tartness, a kiss of orange citrus, a dash or two of bold spicing, and a quick cooking, and in a few minutes you have an accompaniment for a festive meal, a spread for bagels with cream cheese, a topping for a dish of yogurt or ice cream, a filling for a shortbread tart crust.
Makes about 6 cups
3 packages (about 2 1/4 pounds) fresh cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 whole cloves
1/3 cup fresh orange or tangerine juice
1. Combine the ingredients in a large pot and stir to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking until the cranberries are soft all through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove and let cool.
2. Serve at room temperature or chilled. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to several months.