Beef Stew, Classic Winter Comfort Fare ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Beef Stew, Classic Winter Comfort Fare

A good friend recently emailed me to ask "where's the beef?" In her search for a good main course for a Shabat dinner, she'd noticed that my archive of meat recipes did not include a single beef recipe. What a shanda! I decided that I should rectify the situation post haste.

Since the weather here has turned quite "wintry" (meaning rainy, chilly, and windy), today seemed like a perfect time to make beef stew, a classic winter comfort food.

Basic Beef Stew

The recipe below is my own interpretation of a basic beef stew based on a few different cookbooks' versions and a recipe from the December '08 issue of Gourmet. Although this dish does not take a ton of hands-on time, it does require several hours of cooking time to make correctly. That's because the beef must be first browned in fat (see photo below) and then braised in liquid for several hours in order to become delightfully tender.

Browning the stew beef

Although it may sound like extra work (or at least it always does to me!) adding the mirepoix of diced carrots, onions and celery at the beginning will produce a much richer flavor at the end. And you can avoid overcooked veggies and preserve a fresher flavor by simply adding the carrots, potatoes, onions and herbs closer to the end of the process. The recipe below includes some orange zest and cloves which lend it a slightly exotic, Moroccan flavor.

The colors of the Mirepoix flag

Stew is pretty flexible so if you have other veggies on hand (string beans, mushrooms, etc.), they would be a welcome addition. I strongly suggest that you seek out organic, grass-fed beef if at all possible and that you use organic veggies if you can get your hands on them.

Basic Beef Stew

Beef Stew
Serves 6-8


* 2 lbs boneless stew beef (chuck, short rib meat, or bottom round - you don't want to use too lean a cut since it should have some fat in it), cut into 2-inch cubes
* 2 Tbsps olive oil, butter, or bacon fat

* 1 small onion, diced (for the mirepoix) and 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 carrot, diced (for the mirepoix) and 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 2 ribs of celery, diced (for the mirepoix)
* 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
* 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
* 3 Tbsps tomato paste
* 1 28-oz. can of crushed or diced tomatoes
* 2-3 cups dry red wine
* 2 cups beef stock or broth
* 2 tsps balsamic vinegar
* 4-5 small strips of orange peel
* 2 tsps fresh Italian parsley, chopped
* 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
* 2 bay leaves
* 6 whole cloves
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper


1. Season the cubed meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil, bacon fat or butter in a dutch oven over a medium flame then cook the meat until brown on all sides. You may need to cook the meat in two batches to avoid crowding.

2. Add the mirepoix (the diced onions, carrots and celery) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sautee until softened - about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic about halfway through. Then stir in the tomato paste and the balsamic vinegar.

3. Add the wine, beef stock, crushed tomatoes, orange peel, bay leaves and cloves. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours to braise the meat (you can also braise the meat in a 350 degree oven if you prefer that to the stovetop.)

4. Add the cubed potatoes, sliced carrots and onion. Make sure that they are submerged in liquid (if you need to add more stock to cover them, do so now.) Simmer, uncovered, for another 35-40 minutes or until softened. About 20 minutes into the simmering, add the chopped thyme and stir.

5. Taste the stew to determine that the veggies are fully cooked and to adjust the seasonings as needed (you may want to add more salt and pepper.) If you feel that it's too liquidy, thicken with a paste made of a few teaspoons of flour mixed into a tiny bit of water and stir in quickly and thoroughly to avoid lumps, then continue to simmer with the lid off until you are satisfied with the consistency. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

This stew goes nicely with a salad and either a loaf of crusty bread with butter or some herbed Israeli couscous.

1 comment:

Amateur Cook said...

It's Winter here now in my neck of the woods and we're craving hearty, hot and tasty food to fill us and help keep everybody warm - from the inside out. ;)
This is the sort of recipe we have been craving for!