Saturday, November 3, 2012

A meal to fight the storm: Chocolate and Port Beef Stew

First, I must give some resources to donate for those affected by Super-Storm Sandy. There are many more organizations that are helping those in need, including Meals on Wheels in NYC so these are just a select few of the relatively reliable organizations that have made it very easy to donate : 

Text PREVENT to 25383 to donate just $10 to ASPCA's animal rescue and food drive operations OR
Text ANIMALS to 20222 to donate $10 to Disaster Relief Fund OR
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate$10 to the Red Cross disaster relief efforts

And if you need assistance, you can call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 800-621-FEMA (3362) and TTY is 800-462-7585.  

Now back to regular blogging:
   Comfort food is different for each person.  For some, it's mac and cheese; for others, it's dumplings. Recently, we've had to live through the scary Super-Storm Sandy.  Wind was high, rain sideways, transformers exploding. I found listening to the Antiques Roadshow (until the cable went out) to be soothing. I also wanted to cook food that will last for days if a power outage happened. I am oh so grateful that I did not lose power while many I know lost power and heat for days. During uncertain times and stormy weather, one of the most comforting foods for me is a good stew. And if chocolate is part of it, even better. 

   Initially, I wanted a chili in my slow cooker but as I searched for my favorite chili recipe in my folder, I came across a recipe for Chocolate and Port Beef Stew. I had made it last winter and had gotten rave reviews from friends so I decided to go with it. I first read about it at NPR, Chocolate Savories for Your Sweet.  I love chocolate but most recipes are for desserts. I am fine with that but it's even better when I find recipes for savory dishes. I love expanding the use of cocao! This dish is lush - creamy, chocolatey, filling, spicy but not too much heat.  My kitchen smelled like a rich dark chocolate bar with a touch of spice. You might think that I am exaggerating but the smell of the port beef and chocolate gently simmering reminded me of those HGTV shows when they stage a house for sale and put cookies in the oven to entice prospective buyers. 

   If you think chocolate for a stew is strange but have had Mexican food, this dish reminds me of mole (haven't learned how to get the accent over words yet on this Blogger). It has a slight sweetness from the carrots, enriched by the port and chocolate. I added extra cinnamon but you can just taste it.

Chuck roast that I cut into cubes.

Beef cubes, dredged in flour with salt and pepper and in pot to be browned.
Beef browned and put aside in plate while the carrots, onions, etc. cook.  This will be added back to the pot later.  My Mom used to tell me to brown my meat and of course, she's right. Browning the beef first (but not cooking it through) gives a nice aroma to the pan and adds extra rich flavors for your stew.   
The other essentials for this stew.

After adding chocolate - 71% Valhrona.

Chocolate and Port Beef Stew 
I put my own changes in parentheses ( ).
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 1 1/4 pounds chuck roast or top round, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used about 3 tablespoons), seasoned with salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, cut into big dice
4 celery stalks, sliced (I skipped this because I didn't have celery)
3 carrots, peeled and diced (I cut four carrots into big chunks since it was going to cook on the stove for some time)
1 cup port
1 cup beef broth ( I used water since I did not have beef broth)
1 (14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes with juices
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I put in closer to 1/2 teaspoon)
2 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (I used 71 %)
1 1/2 tablespoons pepitas or sunflower seeds (I skipped it because I didn't have it)


In a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, warm olive oil.  Dredge meat in seasoned flour.  Cook until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes.  (Don't overcrowd meat or it'll steam.)  Transfer browned meat to a bowl.  In the same pot, add garlic, onion, celery and carrots and brown for 3 to 5 minutes.  Deglaze the pot by adding the port and using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom.  Return browned meat to the pot.  Add broth, tomatoes, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and salt.

Cover and cook on low for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally until meat is very tender.  Stir in the chocolate until just melted.  The stew should be thick and richly colored.  If you'd like it soupier, add a little more heated beef broth until desired consistency is reached.  Serve plain or atop cooked rice or polenta, and sprinkle each serving with 1/4 of the pepitas.


  1. Ooohhh, Matt will love this, though I am going to skip the cinnamon. I wonder if cardamom would work.

  2. Hima, the cinnamon isn't really pronounced but let me know how cardamom tastes if you try it.