Beef Stew

Beef stew is one of my favorite winter meals.  Every year I make it once or twice when I’m in the mood for something really comforting, and so in preparation for this craving I ordered grass-fed stew beef the last time I was stocking up on meat from my CSA.  Last week, as I was looking through my freezer trying to figure out what I could make with what I had at home, I came across my stew meat and got excited – this is the perfect time of year!  I dug up the Irish Beef Stew recipe that I had adapted ages ago and got to work on Saturday night when hubby was home so that I could start dinner before the munchkin went to sleep.

I think this recipe is pretty classic – no fancy flavors, just wholesome ingredients that cook together for a long time and become really yummy.  In the years that I’ve been making it, I’ve probably never made it exactly the same way twice.  So while I can’t promise you that I have ever actually made it exactly as the recipe states below, I can promise you that every single time I’ve made it the results have been delicious, so I’ve basically decided that you can’t go wrong!  Feel free to be creative with the veggies, for example…I’d bet any root vegetable that can stand up to cooking for a long time would work.  I was thinking the next time I might throw in some sweet potato to mix things up – why not?

Apologies for the photo…turns out it’s really hard to make stew look good!

 

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Beef Stew
adapted from Epicurious

2 tablespoons (approx) olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour seasoned with black pepper
1 1/2 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dark beer or red wine
3 cups chicken or beef stock (homemade or the best quality low sodium you can find)
1 small can tomato paste (use about 3/4 of the can)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter or oil
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (I do not peel my potatoes, but the skin does fall off the potato in the cooking process, so if you don’t think you’ll enjoy that feel free to peel!)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

1 cups frozen peas (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish, optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil (or enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pot) in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Toss beef in flour seasoned with black pepper. Add beef to pan and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.  The beef really should be able to fit in one layer; otherwise it just steams and does not brown.  1 1/2 lbs just fit in my pot, so if you’re increasing the amount at all you may need to do 2 batches or use 2 pans.

Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beer or wine and scrape up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan while it cooks for a few minutes. Add stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, melt butter or additional oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to beef stew.*

Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 1 hour from the time you added the liquid to the beef. Add more broth or keep covered if the stew is getting too thick.  Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat (if necessary; my grass-fed beef is so lean that there was no fat to skim).

Can be prepared several hours and up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer and add peas just before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6

*Theoretically this is an important step because getting color on the veggies should add flavor to the stew. I’m not convinced. If you overcrowd the pan at this stage (which I have in the past) the veggies just get soft, not golden, so this time I did them in batches to get good color and my stew did not taste noticeably better. The next time I’m going to try just adding the veggies directly to the broth and letting them cook in there to see what happens!  If it still tastes good I’d be very happy to make this a one pot dish 🙂

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