My mouth has gone as dry as sawdust. I desperately find Cinna in the crowd and lock eyes with him. I imagine the words coming from his lips. “What’s impressed you the most since you arrived here?” I rack my brain for something that made me happy here. Be honest, I think. Be honest.
“The lamb stew,” I get out.
Caesar laughs, and vaguely I realize some of the audience has joined in.
“The one with the dried plums?” asks Caesar. I nod. “Oh, I eat it by the bucketful.” He turns sideways to the audience in horror, hand on his stomach. “It doesn’t show, does it?”
This Saturday, I had a chance to celebrate some good YA literature and transport Chris and myself to Katniss’s trip to the Capitol for the 74th Hunger Games. I found this recipe (and the excerpt you see above from the book) on FictionalFood.net, where the author has modified a recipe from Julia Child to fit some of the parameters of Katniss’s favorite meal. I picked it for this weekend, thinking it would be a fun little experiment and thinking that I would feel quite literary. We couldn’t fit any reasonably-priced lamb, so we bought some stewing beef and figured we would make it work. And, I must say, I was blown away by the deliciousness of this dish. I expected it to be more for fun than anything, but it was awesome!
First, the flavor. It was really layered–and I think a large part of that came from my addition of Penzey’s beef soup base. Before adding that, it was kind of one-dimensional, but the soup base added depth to it. And the plums at the end gave just a little sweetness to it. I all but licked my dish clean. Next, the texture. The meat cooked for long enough to be nice and tender, despite my initial misgivings after heating it in the pan for a few minutes. It looked kind of tough and rubbery, but while it didn’t end up fall-apart tender, it was still very good. And the sauce was fabulous–a thick gravy filled with meat, potatoes, and carrots. The flour really did its job in bringing it all together. I was so pleasantly surprised with this. I can’t wait to make it again. (Oh, the other lovely thing? It made so much food, I actually put half of it in the freezer! I hope it freezes well, because I’m looking forward to enjoying this for many more meals!)
Here’s FictionalFood.net’s recipe with my adjustments:
- 3 lbs beef, cubed
- 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 21-28 ounces beef broth
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried (or 1 sprig fresh) rosemary, leaves crushed
- 2 tsp crushed savory leaves
- 3 tsp Penzey’s beef soup base
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
- about 12 dried plums cut in half
- Heat oven to 475 degrees.
- Heat oil in a skillet and brown meat. Transfer to dutch oven as pieces cook.
- Sprinkle sugar on browned meat. Cook meat for several minutes on medium high heat to caramelize sugar.
- Toss meat with flour until well coated. Place pot in oven uncovered for 5 minutes. Toss meat around and cook for another 5 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
- Add 21 oz of beef broth, tomato paste, rosemary, and savory leaves. Cover and cook on bottom third of the oven for 1 hour.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add beef soup base and stir in well. Add carrots, potatoes, and more broth if needed.
- Cover and return pot to oven for another hour. After 30 minutes, add dried plums. Once done, taste and season as needed.
- On the stovetop, boil peas for 1-2 minutes. Drain and add to stew just before serving.
- Serve on wild rice, if you’re feel authentic to the book. Eat by the bucketful.