Monday, December 6, 2010

Recipe: Hearty Beef Stew

It's finally December! And despite the mood swings of the weather in DC, it's time for some hearty, winter food favorites, namely soups and stews. So here's my recipe for a delicious beef stew that will warm you up, as well as fill you up, this winter. Bon appetit, foodies!

Hearty Beef Stew
Serves (8-10)

Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs. of beef stew meat (usually beef chuck shoulder roast, the kind you would use for a pot roast but in 2 inch chunks. See note on this further down in the recipe)
  • 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced in circles about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of small yellow or red potatoes (ie: Yukon baby gold)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 bottle of good red wine (I used a merlot or you could use a burgundy)
  • 3 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (a splash really)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (to cut the acidity)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. In a large pan, heat enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan and prevent the beef cubes from sticking. Pat the beef cubes dry with a paper towel and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the beef to the hot pan and throughly brown the beef cubes on all sides. You don't have to cook them all the way through, but they should be well browned.
  2. When the beef is done cooking, remove the meat and set it aside on a plate.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get any of those tasty morsels left behind. Add that mixture to a large stock pot on a very low heat.
  4. Chop the onions, carrots and celery. The onions should not be diced or finely chopped, rather they should be in sort of a sliver form, the carrots sliced into round circles about 1/4 inch thick and the celery also sliced about 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Add the onions first to the pan you cooked the meat in--you may need to add a little extra virgin olive oil just to prevent them from sticking. Cook the onions on a medium-low heat until they start to turn translucent. Then add the carrots, celery and smashed garlic cloves.
  6. In the stock pot, add the meat and any drippings from the meat to the wine from deglazing the pan. Add the whole bottle of red wine and bring to a simmer. Then add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic mixture to the pot.
  7. Add 3 1/2 cups of the beef stock to the pot. Add the can of tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, sugar, butter, bay leaves and thyme to the pot. Stir well to combine.
  8. Bring the mixture to a boil for about 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for about 2-2 1/2 hours.
  9. In the meantime, wash, dry and cut the potatoes into cubes. They do not have to be peeled.
  10. About 30 - 40 minutes before the stew is done cooking, remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Add the potatoes and stir well to combine.
  11. Serve warm with a crusty hunk of italian bread to scoop up the delicious stew.
Some notes about this recipe:
  • Many beef stew recipes suggest to use a fattier cut of meat. However, for this I used lean beef with a 90/10 fat ratio (since it was all the store had) and the recipe turned out great. The little bit of butter adds some extra fat to the stew, and the meat still yielded a good amount of drippings for the base. With a leaner cut of meat, you never have to bite into a grizzly cube of beef.
  • You might have noticed that I didn't add any salt to the stew itself. If you season the meat with salt and pepper before cooking, I found there wasn't a need for more salt. Also, the beef broth (if it's not low-sodium) adds enough salty flavor. However, when the stew is done you can season it with more salt and pepper to your taste. 

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