Estouffade of Beef with Apricots, Almonds, and Raisins

Source: Food and Wine, December 1993

0.5 pound dried apricots
1.5 cups boiling water
4.5 pounds boneless beef shanks or boneless tip roast, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
salt and ground pepper
0.75 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 cup olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
0.25 teaspoon ground cloves
0.5 cup dry white wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their liquid
3.5 cups beef stock or canned broth
2 bay leaves
0.5 cup raisins
0.5 cup slivered blanched almonds, for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
cooked egg noodles, for serving

1) In a medium bowl, soak the dried apricots in the boiling water until plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain.

2) In a large bowl, toss the beef cubes with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and the cinnamon. In a large heavy skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until almost smoking. Add half the beef cubes to the pan and cook over high heat, turning, until will browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the beef to a large plate. Add 1 more tablespoon of the oil and brown the remaining beef.

3) Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and cloves and cook, stirring, until the spices are aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporate, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes with their liquid and the beef stock. Add the apricots to the pan, reserving 8 for garnish. Simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

4) Working in batches, puree the sauce in a food processor until smooth, about 20 seconds. Transfer the puree to an enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the beef and bay leaves and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1.75 hours. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the raisins and simmer until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 8. Freezes well.