Over fed and exhausted, the three of us, settled in two aisle seats, and a window seat in the bulkhead of a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul destined for Atlanta. The hope of a vacant middle seat quickly dashed by an older woman traveling solo. Her disappointment was clear when she realized the middle seat would be occupied by no other than herself. She only wanted a glass of wine, and her sleep medication. We were happy to oblige but in between being fed, unrestful dozing, boredom and bathroom breaks we talked. We talked about real things, family, travel, work, and relationships. She was a scientist by profession and immigrated to the United States decades ago to attend college. She was returning from the country of Georgia, a whim solo travel idea executed. She talked about the rich pleasures of the food and wine. The art she mentioned was extraordinary and the museums under appreciated for their ancient treasures.
The country of Georgia which has never been on my radar previously is officially on my travel list. This month while perusing my issue of Food and Wine I came across a traditional Georgian Beef and Tomato Stew. If we had not had the connection on the plane, I may have glossed passed the recipe.
Traditional Georgian cuisines combines meat with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. The stew is easy to bring together and then slow cooked in the oven for a couple of hours. The stew broth is rich with beef and tomatoes. The aromatics from the abundance of fresh herbs seals it. A rustic bread loaf and a glass of Georgian red wine would bring this dish to a new level of satisfaction.
Ingredients: 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 lb. boneless chuck roast, cut into small cubes
1 lb. boneless beef short ribs, cut into small cubes
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic, (about 6 garlic cloves), divided
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (undrained), crushed by hand
3 cups water or unsalted beef broth
1 to 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded, if desired and finely chopped
6 cilantro sprigs plus 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley *Note: Can serve over creamy polenta or rice (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring often, until softened 6-8 minutes. Transfer onions to a small bowl, set aside. add oil to Dutch oven, and increase heat to medium-high. Brown chuck roast and short ribs in two batches, flipping occasionally, until browned on all sides. 8-10 minutes per batch.
Return all meat to Dutch oven, and add onions, 1 Tablespoon of garlic. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes with juices, 3 cups water or unsalted beef broth, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in jalapeños. Remove from heat. Tie together cilantro sprigs using kitchen twine, and add to Dutch oven.
Cover Dutch oven, and transfer to preheated oven. Roast, stirring occasionally, until meat is fork tender, about two hours. Remove from oven. Skim and discard oil that rises to the surface.
Discard cilantro sprigs. Stir in chopped cilantro, basil, parsley and remaining 1 tablespoon garlic. Let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve with polenta or rice.