Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sweet and Sour Beef

This dish takes its roots from Eastern Jewish cuisine and was very popular in Kiev where I have spent a big chunk of my life.

What it is
It is beef, slow cooked with a fair amount of onion and prunes. Caramelized onions and overcooked prunes create luscious dark sweet and sour sauce that sticks to a softened from prolong cooking beef pieces.

How it's served
Because of a sauce it is great on  a top of mashed potato (choice # 1), or plain rice, or noodles. You can use it even in place of pulled pork in your Sloppy Joe sandwich. In any way, you will be enjoying it a big time.

Some side comments
There is nothing complicated in a preparation of this stew. Just be patient and don't be tempted to take it off the stove before sauce reaches its right consistency and taste. Make sure that onion and prunes are so soft that are almost disintegrated into sauce.

 How to store it
As for any stew, it will keep in fridge for a few days (no chance though, it will be consumed well before).

Pork or chicken can be used instead of beef, it will be still decent dish but it won't be exactly same level of deliciousness as with a beef. Also feel free to add chunks of carrot but I prefer it without carrot - with a  carrot it will lose its dark, almost black, velvety appearance.

Back in Ukraine, I used smoked prunes which give additional layer of smoky flavor to the dish. I was not able to find this kind of prunes here, in US, although regular prunes works just fine.
Whether to use pitted prunes or prunes with a pit, it is matter of personal preferences. I think if you plan to serve it to your guests it must be better to use pitted ones.

- Almost any beef cuts will work here but I like to use inexpensive pieces here, with a lot of connective tissue - it will give a great creaminess to beef texture.

Sweet and Sour Beef

For about 4 servings:

2 lb inexpensive cuts of beef, cut in 1" cubes
onions, chopped
1.5 cup prunes 
1/3 tsp salt (or to your taste)
3 tbs olive oil
2-3 bay leaves (optional)
black pepper to taste

- Place all your ingredients, except prunes, in a big skillet or sauté pan.
- Cook stirring occasionally, uncovered, on a medium heat until all juices evaporate, bottom of your skillet becomes dry and beef and onion start to brown up.
- Add prunes and water to cover all meat and simmer on a medium-low heat with a lid slightly ajar.
- Continue to cook for about 1.5-2 hours until thick dark sauce form. Stir couple times during this period.
- Feel free to add some salt, sugar or pepper at the end of cooking to adjust taste.
- Enjoy right away or next day - it won't lose it taste!


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