By Quentin H. / April 21st, 2023
This week’s column is all about facing fears. And that includes both large fears and small fears.
Earlier this week, I equipped (to borrow a FINAL FANTASY XIV Online term) my kendo armor by myself for the fourth time ever, and I faced down other classmates in my dojo. It is a very scary thing to think that “hey, I’m signing up to get myself hit repeatedly with a shinai (think a bamboo sword) on the head, the arm, and on the stomach!” Every time I knew the shinai was going to hit me on the head, I closed my eyes and braced for the hit. I knew the armor was there to protect me…But I was still afraid and a little hesitant. And I am not going to lie: I definitely closed my eyes every time during this class, but I braced myself less for the hit as the class went on, and I was proud of myself afterwards for doing it.
I also faced down a small fear for this week’s Cooking Eorzea column. If you’ve been following this column so far, you’ve probably noticed that I have used only jarred garlic. This wasn’t a problem since it was minced garlic that the recipes would often call for, and that’s what I would use. This week though: the recipe called for thinly sliced garlic and so I had to face using actual garlic again.
Why would I fear garlic? Well, the last time I tried to cook with actual fresh garlic, I ended up getting it everywhere on my countertop, my hands became incredibly sticky, and my hand smelled of garlic for days afterwards no matter how hard I tried to scrub them clean. I was actually a little bit afraid of repeating that experience with Cooking Eorzea, and so I used the jarred stuff instead until this week.
I used the skills I’ve learned so far, YouTube, and a peeling ‘hack’ that I learned on TikTok in preparation for working with garlic again this week. And it worked out, as you’ll see later on in this week’s Cooking Eorzea column.
I faced down fears, big and small, this week. Cooking Eorzea is meant to help both teach me how to cook and how to better live my life. And if I can do small things like preparing fresh garlic for a column, and I can do big things like let myself get hit by a shinai while practicing kendo, then hopefully I can not fear other things in my life too.
If you’ve missed an installment of Cooking Eorzea, you can check out all the prior recipes here.
Recipe of the Week
Exquisite Beef Stew is the 30th recipe in The Official FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Cookbook, and it is a recipe from the Norvrandt region. More specifically, this is a specialty recipe from the grand, glittery city of Eulmore. This recipe has a difficulty rating of ‘Easy’, though it meant that I would have to face down my fear of preparing fresh garlic in order to make it.
Here is what the Exquisite Beef Stew is supposed to look like:
Featured Ingredient of the Week
There was no way that this week’s Cooking Eorzea featured ingredient could have been anything but a bulb of fresh garlic.
Garlic is a flowering plant that can grow pink/purple flowers from it and is closely related to onions, shallots, and leeks. I was surprised that when I cracked the bulb later on just how many cloves a single garlic bulb had within them. Facing down my small bit of fear over this single, simple ingredient made it the easiest selection for this Cooking Eorzea segment yet.
My Cooking Attempt
Let’s take a look at all the ingredients that I used this week!
As always, I first had to prep the fresh ingredients. I pulled out the carrots, peeled them, and then chopped them into one-inch (ish!) pieces.
I then set the carrot pieces aside and sliced up the onion after peeling off the outer layers and chopping off the ends.
And then…it was time for me to finally deal with the garlic bulb. I smashed it down with the palm of my hand, and it cracked into pieces. I then used a TikTok ‘hack’ to peel the garlic: I tossed them into a container and then shook it extremely hard until the garlic cloves were all peeled.
And yes, the TikTok ‘hack’ worked! You can see the peeled cloves below.
I then used my new garlic slicer to slice the garlic cloves down into thin pieces.
Setting the garlic side, I then plucked the fresh thyme leaves off of the stems and chopped them up.
Setting the thyme aside, I then pulled out the beef chuck and generously added salt and pepper on top of it.
After blending the seasonings into the meat, I then added it to a bowl with flour in it and I hand mixed all of the meat and flour together until the meat was fully coated.
I preheated the Dutch oven that I was going to make the Exquisite Beef Stew in, and brushed oil along the bottom of the pot.
Once the Dutch oven was heated up, I added a layer of beef to the bottom of the pot. The beef started to sizzle and brown, and I rotated it to make sure that all sides brown.
Once that meat was browned, I set it aside and then started to heat up more meat. The meat was browning very slowly, and so I added more oil to the pot to help the meat along.
After the third round of browning meat, I added another tablespoon of oil to the pot and added in the carrots and onions to let them soften up. I noticed that there was some meat browning stuck on the bottom of the Dutch oven, and I hoped that it wouldn’t ruin the dish.
Once those veggies were ready, I added in the sliced garlic and chopped thyme and blended it all together to then cook for a couple of minutes.
At this point, I slightly screwed up: I began adding the beef broth into the recipe. I caught myself very, very quickly though and I added the meat back in, blended it with the vegetables, and then added the beef broth back in.
After adding in the beef broth, I tossed in the tomato paste and stirred it all together until the tomato paste was well-blended.
I then added in a pair of bay leaves.
I then brought it all up to a boil. I then lowered the temperature to let the stew simmer, covered it, and let it cook for two hours.
When there was roughly a half-hour left, I started to peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks.
Once the timer went off, I lifted the lid. This is what the Exquisite Beef Stew looked like so far.
I then added in the potatoes, covered it back up, and let the potatoes soften up for a half-hour.
When there were just a few minutes left for the potatoes to cook in the stew, I measured out a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and added some water to it. I then mixed them together until it was well blended.
This is what the stew looked like after the potatoes softened up. It was pretty watery still, which was unsurprising.
I then used my tongs to pull out the bay leaves. I had to swirl the stew around some to find them first, though.
Finally, I added in the cornstarch and water slurry to the stew, and I blended it all together. I could feel the stew get somewhat thicker from the cornstarch, which was obviously the intended goal.
And of course…Here is what Eulmore’s Exquisite Beef Stew’s final dish looks like!
Eating this week’s Cooking Eorzea dish was a mistake. Not because it was bad – far from it, it was quite fantastic. It was a mistake because the stew was so filling and so hearty that all I wanted to do was absolutely nothing for the rest of the day. The potatoes and carrots and beef worked perfectly together, but the real star of the stew was the broth. It was so flavorful, and I could taste the blend of onions, garlic, thyme, and everything else in it. By the time I was at the bottom of this stew dish, I was absolutely trying to make sure that I wrung every drop out because it was just that delicious.
This is a dish that, if I have the three or so hours needed to make it, I absolutely would do again. I can tell that this would be a hit meal if I needed to make food for several people and that I think everyone would enjoy it. The only thing I think I would do differently is that I would try to somehow brown the meat inside the dish and hopefully not burn a little bit onto the bottom of the Dutch oven like I did in this case.
I’m also not afraid to work with fresh garlic anymore.
Let’s start with the ‘thank yous’! First, I need to thank Victoria Rosenthal for writing The Ultimate FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Cookbook. I also want to thank the staff over at Insight Editions for giving me permission to use the photos from their book to show how these recipes are actually supposed to look. I am hopefully getting closer and closer to making dishes that look like what the professionals can make! Furthermore, I owe Brandon Rose a special thanks for creating the logo for this series on short notice. You should check him and his works out over on Twitter.
Finally, I want to thank both Hiromichi Tanaka and Naoki Yoshida for producing FINAL FANTASY XIV Online in both iterations of the game. I am currently getting ready to tackle the Endwalker expansion, once I finish up Eureka, and this column would not be possible without them creating this amazing world for us all to enjoy.
Next week’s Cooking Eorzea dish will be an all-vegetarian dish called Lentils and Chestnuts from the Black Shroud…So please look forward to it!
Have you tried making the Exquisite Beef Stew before? Have you ever had difficulties working with garlic before?
Let us know in the comments below!
CookingCooking EorzeaExquisite Beef StewFFXIVFinal FantasyFinal Fantasy XIVFINAL FANTASY XIV OnlineHiromichi TanakaInsight EditionsMMORPGNaoki YoshidaPCPlaystationPlayStation 4PlayStation 5Square EnixVictoria Rosenthal