January 13, 2014

Beef Stew

Beef stew, a classic!

I have made beef stew multiple times, always different variations and methods, but this was by far the best beef stew I have made.

Browning the meat is the thing that takes the longest hands on time and makes this recipe seem a lot more daunting than it is. It does take time, but if you can be patient with the searing of the meat (not a strong suit of mine!), you will be rewarded with the most flavorful broth and you will not believe you haven't been doing it this way all along. I know that throwing the ingredients into a crockpot seems so much simpler but really, you are missing out!  Make this on a weekend when you can take a little extra time. Trust me.

2013-12-28 Beef Stew 003

I used this recipe from The Kitchn to make the most flavorful, rich, hearty, and comforting bowl of beef stew ever, and here is the recipe as I made it:

Classic Beef Stew
Serves 6-8
Total time: about 3 to 4 hours.

4 pounds beef chuck roast
1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, diced 

3 celery stalks, diced
 3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons tomato paste
 2 tablespoons Worcestershire, divided 
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup red wine, plus extra to finish 
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried) 
1 bay leaf 
4 cups chicken stock 
3 carrots, diced 
1 ½ pounds red potatoes, cubed 
1 cup frozen peas 
Salt and pepper

1.  Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside of the roast, and cut it up into relatively even bite-sized cubes.  Use a sharp knife and if you are having trouble, freeze the meat for just a little while to make it less jiggly. 

2. Set a large dutch oven over medium-high heat (on the hotter side of medium hot) and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles when it hits the oil, it's ready.  Add a single layer of beef cubes to the pan and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.  (Do not overcrowd the pan! I did about 6 batches of searing.)  Let the beef cook without touching it for about 5 minutes, until the bottom sides develop a dark brown crust and come away from the pan easily, without forcing it.  Flip them and let them cook again undisturbed for about 5 minutes.  If the pan is a little dry, add a little more oil.  Once seared, remove to a plate and repeat this process until all of the beef is beautifully brown on the outside. Don't forget to salt and pepper each batch!  This process took me probably an hour.

3.  An important step to this stew is the development of the "fond", a sticky dark glaze that forms on the bottom of the pan.  It may look gross but it is just delicious flavor!  Don't worry about it unless it starts smoking or smells like burning.  If this happens, add a little bit of water to dissolve it and then pour that liquid over the cooked beef. 

4.  Once the beef is all seared and sitting aside on it's plate, turn down your burner to medium and give it a chance to cool down a little (I removed my pot for about 5 minutes for this to happen with my electric stove). Put the pot back on the burner and add another tablespoon of oil.  Add the onions and celery, cooking until the onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and one tablespoon of the Worcestershire sauce and stir it around so it is all mixed in.

5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and stir until there is no more visible flour and everything is coated in flour and looks mushy.

6.  Raise the heat back up to medium-high and pour in the wine.  It will bubble and smell delicious.  Stir and scrape the sticky fond coating from the bottom of the pan and keep stirring until the fond is all dissolved and the wine has reduced and thickened slightly.

7.  Return the seared beef to the pan along with the broth, whole thyme sprigs, and a bay leaf.  Stir to combine.

8.  Bring the pot to a low boil, and reduce heat to low.  Cover the pot and let it cook for 1 and 1/2 hours.  Stir occasionally and make sure the stew stays at a very low simmer. 

9.  Add the potatoes and carrots to the stew.  Cover the pot again and continue simmering for another 45 to 60 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through and the meat is very tender, falling apart easily. 

10.  Add the peas along with the remaining tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of red wine.  Remove the thyme stems and the bay leaf.  Taste at this point and add any additional salt, pepper, or anything else you might like in your stew. Paprika would be nice, or maybe more garlic?  I didn't add anything but salt and pepper and I am glad I kept it simple.  Serve with a nice loaf of bread and a salad if you are being good.

Note: This stew freezes beautifully so don't be alarmed by how much it makes!  Freeze your leftovers for a rainy day!

Watch me make this soup:

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