Servings: 12 servings
5 yellow onions
1½ pounds beef chuck
3 cups vegetable oil
1 pound pearl barley
1½ pounds dried garbanzo beans (chana dal)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 cloves freshly grated garlic
1 teaspoon Provence herbs
1¾ cups plain yogurt, whisked
1 bunch young asparagus spears, blanched and halved
3 tablespoons curly parsley
2 (18-ounce) packages pre-cooked polenta
, ½-inch thick sliced and pan-fried
The day before...
Wash the dried garbanzo beans and discard any floating or odd-shaped ones. Wash and rinse thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Cover them in lukewarm water and let soak for about 12 hours.
In a separate bowl, repeat the same procedure with the pearl barley. Cover with double the amount of water as it will expand in volume.
The next day...
Drain the garbanzo beans and barley, removing as much of the soaking water as possible.
Place them in a mixing bowl. Add turmeric, ½ red chili powder and 1 teaspoon ground coriander.
Preheat a slow cooker (set on low mode, cook time "2 hours"). Place the mixture into the cooker, cover with water. Note: You could also make the stew in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook until tender.
When the mixture has cooked, drain the water. Let cool to room temperature. Blend the barley and garbanzo beans in a food processor. Add a little water for a smoother flow.
Caramelizing the onions:
Chop 3 onions and, using a mandoline, thinly slice the remaining 2 onions. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the sliced onions, 1 thin layer at a time (work in batches; you don't want to over-crowd the pan or they won't be crispy). Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring after 4-5 minutes to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan. Add more oil between batches if necessary.
In a large pot, heat ½ cup oil. Add the 3 chopped onions and cooked for about 10 minutes until golden. Transfer to a blender. Add a little water if necessary for a smoother flow.
Preparing the meat:
In the same pot, pan-sear each side of the beef cubes for about 1-½ minutes (a total of about 9 minutes) until nicely browned. Lower the heat and add the whisked yogurt. Cook over medium heat until all the moisture from the yogurt has evaporated. A layer of oil should come back to the surface. Quickly transfer the beef to a platter. At this point the beef isn't cooked completely.
For the stew:
Combine the barley mixture and beef pieces in the slow cooker. Add 2 cups boiling water and the puréed fried onion paste to the cooker. Cover the slow cooker with a lid and let simmer for 2 hours.
Serve in individual deep plates. Cover the plate with the velvety sauce. Top with rounds of polenta. Add the beef stew. Add the aspragus spears and sprinkle with parsley.
You could replace barley with pearled wheat (wheat berries).
Whisking the yogurt prior to adding it to the stew prevents it from curdling in the gravy. It's a great meat tenderizer.
I added asparagus for a contrast in color and added greens to the dish; you could opt for your favorite vegetable.
You can find rolls of premade polenta at Trader Joe's.
I stored the leftover beef stew in the freezer.