Writers' Strike 2008

Rachael Ray's Strike-Survival Recipe!

Feeling TV-starved? The celebrity chef has a 120-minute meal just for you...

Rachael Ray | RACHAEL RAY Assures us that ''this recipe is so easy you can't possibly screw it up''
Image credit: Scott Wintrow/Getty Images
RACHAEL RAY Assures us that ''this recipe is so easy you can't possibly screw it up''

During the workweek, I never cook. I get takeout at night so I can spend quality time with the one I love — my DVR. But given all the strike-related repeats, I have at least 30 minutes an evening to embrace my inner Rachael Ray. So I asked the real Ray for a long recipe that would be as satisfying as an episode of Bones. She shot back an e-mail recommending her mom Elsa's cider beef with smashed cheddar potatoes. It should take 60 minutes to make, but could kill as much as two hours if I suck at peeling and chopping the onions, carrots, turnips, and spuds needed for the stew-like dish (which I do). ''Take your time and make it fun,'' Ray explained to me via e-mail, having recently lost her voice after filming three episodes of her daytime chat-and-chew show in a row. ''This recipe is so easy you can't possibly screw it up.'' Hey, I have that in writing. Now, I'm off to buy some EVOO...

The recipe, from Rachael Ray's latest cookbook, Just In Time!:

Elsa's Cider Beef With Smashed Cheddar Potatoes
Mama knows best! Here again, my mama, Elsa, proves she's top chef!

2 tablespoons EVOO — Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds top sirloin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped, bite-size pieces
2 pounds turnips, peeled and chopped, bite-size pieces
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups good-quality apple cider, the kind that looks dark and cloudy
2 cups of beef stock
4 large or 6 medium Idaho, peeled and chopped
About 1/2 cup milk
About 1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped or snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place a large stew pot or Dutch oven with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and butter. When the butter melts, season the beef with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Add the onions, carrots, and turnips, and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir to combine and coat, 1 minute. Stir in the apple cider and the beef stock, bring to a boil, cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Braise the beef for 45 minutes.

Once the beef has been in the oven for about 15 minutes, place the potatoes in a large saucepot with water to cover by at least 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat a bit, add some salt, and cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them and return them to the pot. Add the milk, sour cream, and cheese. Use a potato masher to smash them to your preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper and add the chives. Cover and keep warm until the beef is done.

To serve, ladle the stew into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center and fill with the potatoes. (It should be noted, however, that there are members of our family — like my brother — who would fill a bowl with potatoes instead, leaving a small well in the center to hold a few bites of stew.)

Tips from Rachael:
· Make sure the pan is real, real hot before you put in the meat. And make sure you let the meat get really dark all over. This will give your stew great color and flavor.
· Feel free to add any root veggies you want.
· Remember: the longer the stew sets, the better it gets.

Originally posted Jan 16, 2008 Published in issue #975 Jan 25, 2008 Order article reprints