Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
This famous Greek stew, also transliterated as stifatho, is a braised beef with onions that is simply one recipe among thousands, since every family makes it a little differently and it is so typical of rustic Greek mountain cooking. The name comes from the Italian stufato, meaning stewed meat, and the Greek version probably results from the influence of Venetian overlordship in the Middle Ages when Venice played such a large role in Greek affairs, especially in the Ionian Sea. On the other hand, the spices, the clove and cinnamon, as well as the walnuts and currants points to some Turkish or other Levantine influence, too, which is logical when we remember that the Turks controlled most of Greece for five hundred years.
These soul-satisfying tastes are perfect once the weather becomes cool. This is a recipe that you can change anyway you want, just as a Greek cook would. Maybe you would like to add carrots or potatoes or remove the walnuts--well, go ahead, it's a free-form Greek stew.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 2:45 hours
1. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat, then brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a casserole. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves to the skillet with 2 tablespoons butter and cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring. Add the tomato puree, wine, and wine vinegar to de-glaze the skillet. Pour this over the meat in the casserole. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cover the casserole and braise over low heat for 1 hour. Add the small onions and currants and cook until meat falls off the bone (if using short ribs), about 1 hour more. Add the walnuts and cook 20 minutes more. Add the feta cheese and cook 5 minutes then serve.