Dutch Cuisine — Hachée, Dutch Beef Stew

The Dutch landscape, much of it farmland reclaimed from the sea with an elaborate system of dikes, was difficult and labor-intensive to create and maintain.  The cuisine that has resulted from such a place is robust, hearty, and simple.  Dutch meals contain a ton of vegetables and a little meat or fish, and dairy products are typically served as well.  Dutch cheeses are famous around the world, especially the cannonball-shaped Edam, pungent Limburger, and, of course, Gouda:

Netherlands quick facts:

  • Capital: Amsterdam
  • Population: 16,788,973 (2013 estimate)
  • Notable Dutch: Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Johan Cruyff, Goldmember

Dutch cheese is easily the most famous Dutch food influence around the world (our favorite is Vlaskaas, a Gouda-style cheese made from milk from cows that feed almost exclusively on flax), but few main dish recipes have made an impression abroad.  Stews are regularly featured on the Dutch table, so we thought it was right to include one here.  Hachée (“hash-SHAY,” recipe follows) is a stew made from any kind of meat, poultry, or fish, but most commonly prepared from beef cooked in an acidic liquid like wine or apple cider vinegar.  We served ours with hutspot, boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Hachée

adapted from The Dutch Table

SERVES MANY

  • 2 pounds beef chuck steak, cubed
  • flour for dredging, about 1/2 to 1 cup
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 3 onions, julienned
  • 1 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 to 6 juniper berries
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper

For the hutspot:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 potato, peeled
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs butter

Note: many steps went unphotographed due to some camera battery issues (in other words, we didn’t charge the battery before beginning)

First, since we got our two-ish pounds of beef chuck from a two-and-a-half or so pound bone-in chuck steak, we trimmed the meat off the bone and cut it into inch-and-a-half pieces:

meatprepped

Next we put our large Dutch oven (appropriate, right?) on the stove over medium heat while we cut up the onions and dredged the beef in flour:

meatandonions

The time it took to work the onions and beef was about right for the Dutch oven to heat up, so the butter was immediately added to the pot.  Once melted, the meat was put in to brown (in batches, of course, to prevent overcrowding):

meatbrowning

Once browned, the meat was set aside:

meatbrowned

…and the onions were added to the pot to brown a little in the leftover butter and meat drippings:

onionsbrowning

Once the onions were softened and lightly browned, about five to seven minutes or so later, the beef was returned to the Dutch oven and stirred into the onions.  The water, stock, bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, peppercorns, and salt and pepper were added so that the liquid level was just below the tops of the meat pieces and brought to a simmer.  Once simmering, the stew was covered, the heat reduced to low, and the stew was cooked for two hours, stirring occasionally.

About a half hour before the stew was finished, the potatoes were peeled and cut into about two-inch pieces, the carrots peeled and diced, and the half onion for the hutspot diced.  The hutspot vegetables were put in a saucepan and covered by about an inch with water and simmered for twenty minutes or so until tender, then mashed over low heat with the salt, milk and butter and set aside, covered, to keep warm until the stew was done.

When everything was ready, the meal was served with a big scoop of the hutspot in the bottom of a large bowl and covered with a big ladle of the hachée:

hacheedone

Much like a few months ago, when we tackled Belgian cuisine and carbonadeour stew made beef the star performer, with onions serving a valuable supporting role in the finished dish.  The juniper berries made a surprisingly significant impact in the flavor of the stew for how little went in, and the red wine was a great compliment as well.  The underrated performer of the meal though was the hutspot.  We’ve all had countless varieties of mashed potatoes, from garlic to wasabi, but adding carrots was something we had never even considered.  With a little stew broth in each bite, the hutspot was rich and savory and something we will definitely make again.  Outside of the Netherlands, we feel that most people know very little about Dutch food and are missing out on something pretty tasty.

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