I would give beef stew a million hugs and kisses if I didn’t look like a complete psycho doing so. It might be the fact that my grandmother used to make it for me when I was a tiny hispanic child, in the form of carne con papa. Or the fact that I feel like it’s tangible love. That tender beef, with the bite of tomato and aromatics, just gets me. I get it, too. And I suspect you do as well.
Many people are intimidated to make beef stew, but it is quite simple to prepare. Most grandmother-y meals are inherently simple. Think about it, grandmothers don’t want fuss. They have lots of people to feed and stomachs to nourish. Because that’s what they do, they love. Let’s do it.
Please note that what I’m outlining here is a beef stew TEMPLATE. There are no bells and whistles. But you know what? You don’t need any. This is the most basics of the basics. There is nothing crazy fancy, including no wine, which I added in the past but these days I keep things alcohol-free. If you need the wine, I outline how to add it below. I guarantee that it’ll make your mouth and heart happy, though. I just want you to get a solid hang of searing the beef and aromatics and adding liquid, then letting it mellow out and do its thing in the oven, which is all what beef stew is. So let’s get started.
((Quick note about the beef you need to use: beef for stew is generally either chuck (shoulder, leg, and butt) or round (bottom and eye). Round is leaner than chuck. Both of these cuts are tough, but with the careful searing and gentle, long cooking, they’ll into butter. If you can’t find stew beef already cut, select one of these cuts and ask your butcher to cut them into 2” pieces, or cut them yourself at home.))
Simple beef stew + variations
- 2 tablespoons cooking fat
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 2 pounds stew meat, cut into 2” pieces
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups broth
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- Set your oven at 325 degrees F. If using the fresh herbs, tie the thyme and rosemary up with kitchen twine and set aside.
- Dry the beef REALLY well with paper towels. Like, get in there and soak up all possible moisture. Season it with on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat the cooking fat over high heat. Place the beef carefully into the fat with tongs, and leave them alone. Only place as many as will comfortably fit in the pan, leaving about ½ inch of space between the pieces. You will need to do this in batches. Don’t get lazy here, guys. The sear is the key to having beautiful beef pieces. If you crowd the pan, they will steam, and you’ll get grey meat. Gross. Sear them well on all sides. Once you’re done with one batch, set it aside to a bowl and continue. This step alone should take about twenty minutes.
- Once you’re done browning the beef, set all of it aside to a plate. Add more cooking fat to the dutch oven if needed and turn it to medium. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for about 15 minutes, until deeply browned, scraping up the delicious fond left over from browning the beef. Add the garlic and tomato paste and saute for a minute or two longer.
- Add the beef back to the pan. Add the tomatoes, broth, balsamic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Turn the heat up to high and bring up to a boil. Cover the pot and place in the oven for about three hours. At the two hour mark, you can check the beef to see if it is tender and mix everything around. Continue cooking until the beef is fork tender.
- Remove from the oven, top with the fresh parsley, and serve immediately. I like to serve this with potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cauliflower puree.
- Thai: omit the herbs and added salt; add 1 minced jalapeno and 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger when you add the garlic; add two tablespoons red curry paste, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 2 tablespoons coconut aminos, and 1 can full-fat coconut milk when you add the tomatoes. Top with cilantro.
- Moroccan: omit the herbs; add 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander when you add the garlic; add ½ cup raisins when you add the tomatoes; top with toasted almonds and cilantro.
- Cuban-ish: omit the herbs; add 2 teaspoon cumin and 2 teaspoons oregano when you add the garlic; substitute 1 cup of orange juice for 1 cup of the broth.
- White or red wine can be substituted for 1 cup of the broth here.
- Slow cooker variation: complete all steps up until you boil all of the ingredients together (so sear, saute the aromatics, and add everything in) then cook in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
Ashley Pardo http://ashleypardo.com/