Greek Stifado With Feta Cheese Crust

Course : Greek
Serves: 6
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2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 pounds lean beef stew meat -- cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion -- minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 piece bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves -- crumbled
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper -- or to taste
1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
16 small white boiling onions -- peeled
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 pound feta cheese -- crumbled or grated
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce -- optional

Preparation / Directions:

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil and butter over moderate heat. Raise heat to high and brown meat, one third at a time, removing meat to a large, heavy casserole (preferably with an enamel or porcelain coating) as it browns. Add minced onion to skillet, sauté just until wilted, and spoon into casserole. Add tomato paste, wine, vinegar, the water, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, and sugar to the casserole. Stir well and add cayenne, salt, and pepper, to taste. Bring just to a boil, cover tightly, lower heat, and simmer 1 hour. Add white boiling onions and simmer, covered, until meat is very tender (about 1 hour longer). Degrease stew if necessary and carefully correct seasonings; stir in nuts. Sprinkle feta cheese over stew, pushing it gently into top of liquid with a wooden spoon. Cover and simmer to melt cheese (about 5 minutes longer). Sprinkle parsley on top and serve stew in deep soup bowls, making sure that everyone gets some nuts and cheese, but leaving some room in each bowl for rice to be added. Have hot-pepper sauce on hand, to be added as desired.

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