Classic Beef Stew
Classic Beef Stew
Everyone should know how to make a good beef stew. It's just one of those dishes that, like chocolate chip cookies or buttermilk pancakes, will serve you well in life by providing both comfort and nourishment
Searing the meat is key. Not browning, searing. Get your pot nice and hot with a thin film of oil, and toss in as many cubes of meat as will fit in a single layer. Don't move them at first. You want to get a dark brown caramelized crust on the underside. When the meat releases easily from the pan and you see that crust, then you can stir and repeat until the cubes are totally seared.
Also key is cooking the stew low and slow. I like to do this in an oven for the steady heat it provides, though you could also simmer the stew on a back burner. Either way, you need to use a heavy bottomed pan with a fairly tight-fitting lid, such as a dutch oven. This will trap in moisture and help the meat to cook into tenderness.
With those two conditions met, you can go on to make any kind of beef stew you like. Start with the traditional onions, carrots and potatoes with a splash of red wine. Next time, throw in some mushrooms or a handful of barley. Or use a dark beer instead of the wine to deglaze the pot and deepen the flavor.
Give yourself a whole afternoon for this endeavor. Searing the meat takes time and cooking it takes even longer. And after all that, the stew is even better the next day. This recipe makes a lot, as a good stew should, so all your time will be rewarded with a week of good eating.
Classic Beef Stew
3-4 pounds beef chuck roast, cubed
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire, divided
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 1/2 pounds red bliss potatoes, cubed
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Warm a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of beef cubes. Let them cook without stirring for several minutes. When they come loose from the bottom of the pan and develop a dark brown crust on the underside, stir and continue cooking until all sides are seared, 8-10 minutes total.
Transfer the seared meat to a clean dish and continue searing the remaining beef in batches. A dark coating should start to form on the bottom of the pan. If it starts to smell smoky at any time, dissolve it with a little water or broth and pour it over the seared meat.
Once the meat is seared, turn the heat to medium and add another teaspoon of oil. Cook the onions and celery until the onions are soft and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to coat, then add the flour and cook one more minute.
Turn up the heat to medium-high. Pour in the wine and scrape the dark brown coating off the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the wine has slightly thickened. Add the seared meat, thyme sprigs (or dried thyme), bay leaf, and broth to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Stir the potatoes and carrots into the stew and continue to cook, covered, for another 45 minutes. When done, the meat should be completely tender and the potatoes cooked through. If they are not, recover and cook in additional 15-minute intervals until cooked.
To finish, add the peas, the second tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a splash of red wine. Remove the thyme stems (the thyme itself will fall off into the stew) and bay leaf. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If the broth seems thin, let the stew simmer for a few minutes on the stovetop.
This stew will keep refrigerated for one week or can be frozen for up to three months.
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Classic Beef Stew
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