I love cooking up big pots of stew on cold winter days. Filling your insides with something warm and hearty just feels so good! Even my pickiest eater fills his tummy without a fuss on those days. Last night, I cooked up a rich and hearty beef stew.
Now, I know there are a million recipes for beef stew out there that promise ‘quick and easy’ but I don’t think you can get a top quality stew quickly. The few extra steps that I take when making this recipe really turns an ordinary stew into a delicious meal that makes your taste buds swoon.
The first trick is, you must sear the meat. This is vital in my book. When you try to rush and just sort of throw it all together, you end up with meat that is tough and chewy.
After cubing it, place it in a hot pan and let them sizzle for at least five minutes before nudging them. You want to wait until they have a dark crust and no longer stick to the pan before turning them over. If you don’t have a pan big enough to do all of them at the same time, do them in batches.
A sticky dark glaze, often referred to as a fond, will start to form on the bottom of the pan as you continue searing your meat. That’s my favorite part. The scents and flavors are so roasty and delicisously winterish that they literally make my mouth water.
I if I’m not making my beef stock from scratch, which I usually do a couple days ahead of time, I use chicken stock instead. I did this once by accident because I didn’t have time to make it myself and had some regular chicken stock on hand so I just went with it. It ended up tasting great though, so now I do it on purpose whenever I use a store bought stock.
I highly recommend making it at home though. Homemade stock, whether beef, chicken, turkey or vegetable is insanely different from any that you buy. (I use a recipe similar to this one for beef from Bon Appetit)
Also, I add dumplings. DH and all the boys devour my dumplings so I add them in whenever I can. You can thank my Yankee upbringing for that. 🙂
- 3-4 pounds beef chuck roast
- 1-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp 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 potatoes, cubed
- Cube the beef. Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside of the roast, then cut it into small bite-sized cubes. This is most easily done if you cut the roast into slices, each slice into strips, and then the strips into cubes.
- Warm the pot and begin searing the meat. Set a large soup pot over medium-high heat and brush the bottom with oil. When hot enough that a drop of water sizzles off the surface, work in batches to sear the beef. Add a single layer of beef cubes to the pan, being careful not to crowd the cubes too closely, and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.
- Continue searing all the meat. Let the cubes of beef cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, until the undersides develop a dark brown crust and come away easily from the pan. Toss and continue searing on all sides, another 4-5 minutes. Transfer the seared meat to a clean bowl and continue searing the remaining meat in batches. Add another teaspoon or two of oil between batches if the pan looks dry.
- Watch for the fond to form. A sticky dark glaze will start to form on the bottom of the pan. This is technically called “the fond,” and it is a major source of deep, caramelized flavor in your stew. We’ll get back to it in a few more steps. However, if at any time you think the crust smells smoky or is starting to burn, dissolve it with a few tablespoons of water and pour over the seared beef.
- Cook the vegetables. Once all the meat has been seared and transferred out of the pan, cook the vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium and warm another teaspoon of oil. Add the onions and celery, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and one tablespoons of the Worcestershire sauce to coat.
- Add the flour. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Stir until there is no more visible flour and the veggies look slightly mushy from the flour coating.
- De-glaze the pan with the wine. Raise the heat back up to medium-high and pour in the wine. The wine should immediately start bubbling and steaming. Scrape the sticky fond from the bottom of the pan; the wine will help it to dissolve. Continue scraping and stirring until the wine has reduced and thicken slightly.
- Return the meat to the pan and add the broth. Return the seared meat to the pan and add the whole thyme sprigs, the bay leaf, and the broth. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. Make sure the stew stays at a very low simmer.
- Add the potatoes and carrots. Add the potatoes and carrots to the stew. Cover the pot again and continue cooking for another 45-60 minutes. When done, the meat should be tender enough to flake apart with a fork and the potatoes cooked through. If not, re-cover and cook in additional 15 minute increments until cooked.
- Add the dumplings. (see recipe below)
- Add remaining seasonings. Add the remaining tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of red wine. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaf. Taste and add extra salt, pepper, or other seasonings as you see fit.
- Cook for additional 5-7 minutes. You just want to wait until dumplings are cooked through before removing from heat.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp milk
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer mixture onto a saucer and using the wrong side of a butter knife, ‘cut’ dumplings off of the edge of the plate and drop into soup. Dumplings generally need somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes to cook through.
Note: Stew can be served right away, refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to three months.
Recipe modified from The Kitchn.