I must have been low on iron because the last time I went to the grocery store I got all beef. I hadn’t made a stew in months so I found this simple recipe on the How to Cook Everything app, by Mark Bittman. This free app is amazing. It has all the basics, including variations. After reading some recipes and watching a few cooking shows I realize that I’ve been making stew wrong for years. I never understood why you had to fry the meat first before adding your liquid. I always put all the meat in at once and it would kind of braise/steam; all the water would be released from the meat, and then I’d add more water and go from there. The whole point of frying the meat is to brown it, creating that seared meat flavour as a base. Tonight I was careful to brown the meat in batches, using the recommended amount of oil and I think it made a difference. And I’ve never tried adding the flour after cooking the onions. In our family if we added a thickening agent it would be at the end. But making a kind of roux (cooking the flour in fat until it is fragrant) is also a way of adding a layer of flavour. That being said, this isn’t my favourite stew recipe. It calls for a teaspoon of thyme and I’m not a huge fan of that particular herb. I think I’ll try one of the recipe’s variations next time and cut down on the thyme. Oh, I also made an alteration to the recipe. My carrots weren’t up to par so I substituted corn instead. I’m not sure what effect it had on flavour. I’ll keep you posted regarding the next incarnation of this stew.
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 to 2½ pounds boneless beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1‐ to 1½‐inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 tablespoons all‐purpose flour
3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock (to make your own, see Quickest Chicken Stock; Beef, Veal, Lamb, or Pork Stock; or Vegetable Stock), water , wine , or a combination, or more as needed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 medium to large waxy or all‐purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1‐inch chunks
4 large carrots, cut into 1‐inch chunks
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
- Heat a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium‐high heat for 2 or 3 minutes; add the oil and the crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then remove and discard the garlic. Add the meat to the skillet a few pieces at a time, turning to brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Do not crowd or the cubes will not brown properly; cook in batches if necessary. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as it cooks.
- When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon. Pour or spoon off most of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
- Uncover the pot; the mixture should be wet (if not, add a little more liquid). Add the potatoes and carrots, turn the heat up for a minute or so to bring the liquid back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover again. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (At this point, you may remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and refrigerate them and the stock separately. Skim the fat from the stock before combining it with the meat and vegetables, reheating, and proceeding with the recipe from this point.)
- Add the minced garlic and the peas; if you’re pleased with the stew’s consistency, continue to cook, covered, over low heat. If it’s too soupy, remove the cover and raise the heat to high. In either case, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the peas have heated through and the garlic has flavored the stew. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Belgian Beef Stew With Beer (Carbonnade)
In Step 2, omit the flour. Use 1½ cups good dark beer for the liquid. Omit the potatoes, carrots, peas, and minced garlic. This is good finished with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and served over buttered noodles or with plain boiled potatoes.
Spicy Braised Beef With Lime
In Step 1, use peanut oil if you have it. In Step 2, omit the bay leaf and thyme and add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 or 3 small dried hot red chiles, or to taste, and the minced zest of 1 lime; use only 1½ cups of liquid. Do not add vegetables. When the meat is tender, finish the dish by adding more minced garlic and the juice of 1 or 2 limes, to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro leaves and serve with Steamed Sticky Rice, Thai Style, or plain white rice.
Beef Stew With Bacon
In Step 1, cut 4 ounces bacon (preferably slab) into small cubes and cook it over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Proceed with the recipe, browning the meat in the bacon fat. Stir in the bacon cubes a minute before serving.
Beef Stew, Greek Style
In Step 2, use 2 bay leaves and omit the thyme. Add 2 cloves, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and one 6‐ounce can tomato paste. In Step 3, add 20 peeled pearl onions (frozen are fine), each skewered with a toothpick through its equator (this holds them together), and ¼ cup red wine vinegar; in Step 4, omit the peas. Garnish with parsley and serve over rice or broad noodles.
Beef Stew With Dried Mushrooms
Add 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms and omit the garlic, flour, thyme, potatoes, carrots, and peas. Reduce the stock to 2 cups and heat until steaming. Soak the porcini in the hot stock until soft, about 30 minutes. Proceed with Step 1. For Step 2, cook the onions as directed and meanwhile remove the porcini from the stock and trim away any hard spots. When the onions are lightly browned, add the warmed stock, porcini, and remaining ingredients (except the parsley); cook until the meat is tender, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Proceed with the recipe.
Beef Stew With Prunes
Omit the garlic, flour, thyme, potatoes, carrots, and peas. Reduce the chopped onion to just one. Proceed with Step 1. For Step 2, cook the onion with 3 cored and chopped plum tomatoes (canned are fine) as directed. Add the bay leaf along with 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, or more to taste, and one 3‐inch cinnamon stick, then return the meat to the pot, along with 1 cup of stock and 1 cup dry red wine. Proceed with Step 2. For Step 3, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup pitted prunes instead of the potatoes and carrots. Proceed with the recipe, skipping the garlic, and stirring in a tablespoon or so sherry or other vinegar before adjusting the seasoning.
Sour Beef Stew With Horseradish
Omit the garlic, flour, bay leaf, thyme, and peas. Proceed with Step 1. For Step 2, cook 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped celery stalk, 2 chopped carrots, and 2 or 3 waxy potatoes as directed. Add 1 cup of stock and ¼ cup white or wine vinegar, bring to a boil, and cook for a minute; then return the meat to the pot. Take 1 bunch fresh dill and remove about ½ cup of dill leaves and set aside; tie the remaining stems and leaves into a bunch and add to the pot. Reduce the heat to a slow bubble, cover, and cook until the meat and vegetables are tender, about an hour. Add 1 tablespoon or more prepared horseradish and the reserved dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately.
Courtesy of John Wiley & Sons. Copyright © Double B Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.