Braised Beef with Rich Gravy and Rice

Here’s a homey way to enjoy your stew beef or round steaks. This recipe looks complicated, but it is quite simple. Start by preparing the beef. Once it is simmering in the broth, make the rice with vegetables, then finish off the beef and gravy and serve. From start to finish, this recipe should take only about an hour and a half, with ample downtime for sipping cocktails and nibbling. The ingredients are inexpensive, and the entire meal can be served in one steaming-hot nourishing bowl.
On a budget

Serves 4
1 ½ to 2 pounds stew beef or round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups beef broth plus 1 cup, if needed for gravy
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup ice water

Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the meat, and sauté until well browned; remove to a bowl, and keep warm. In the same skillet, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions are translucent.

Add 3 cups of the broth, and bring to a simmer, stirring the mixture often and scraping up any browned bits. Return the beef to the skillet, cover tightly, and simmer for 1 hour or more, until the beef is tender. If the liquid starts to boil over, turn the heat down slightly.

Periodically check the stew to make sure there is ample liquid for cooking the meat and for making the gravy afterward. If too much has boiled off, add the fourth cup of broth. If you still need more liquid, add a cup or two of water (you’ll want nearly 2 cups of liquid left in the pan after the meat has cooked). During the this time, prepare the rice and vegetables (see below).

Once the rice and vegetables are ready, in a separate glass, whisk the flour into the ice water until smooth. Gradually stir this thickener into the simmering beef and broth. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and cook for a few seconds, stirring, until the gravy thickens. Serve over the rice with vegetables.
the rice and vegetables:

2 cups brown rice (see note)
4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, scraped, shredded
2 sweet bell peppers, green or red, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup blanched almonds, sliced

Bring rice to a boil, skim off any residue that rises to the top, stir in the slat and butter, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 30 to 45 minutes. Just before all the water is evaporated, sauté the vegetables in the olive oil until crisp-tender. Stir them into the cooked rice, and add the sliced almonds. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Note: I advocate following Sally Fallon’s advice (in Nourishing Traditions) to soak and ferment grains and legume in yogurt before cooking them. This does not affect their flavor, but it does allow the enzymes and lactobacilli in the yogurt to neutralize the phytic acid, greatly improving their nutritional properties. If you know when you will be preparing this recipe, simply cover the rice with warm water and 4 tablespoons plain yogurt in an ovenproof casserole and let sit, covered, in a warm place for a minimum of 7 hours. Afterward, cook as instructed above.