The Beef Stew Trials
I want to like beef stew, I really do. I try different recipes, all different variations, and more often than not, I’m underwhelmed. With another cold winter ahead, it seems like I should figure out how to make a beef stew I enjoy.
Did I mention that we bought a winter CSA share? Because it was all storage vegetables, it was a one-time pickup. In early December, we picked up bags and bags of onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, parsnips, celery root, and (new to me) black radishes.
I thought hard about what I do and don’t like about stew. For one thing, the vegetables in most stews are just carrots and potatoes, and I realize I don’t like potatoes that have stewed for a long time. I also don’t usually like stews that are just meaty soups with a thin soupy broth.
I came up with a stew with lots of root vegetables (no potatoes) and a lovely thick gravy. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The meat was perfectly tender, and the meat-to-vegetable ratio was exactly the way I like it. Howard liked it too.
I served the stew over the celery root puree I made for French Fridays. The texture of the creamy puree complemented the chunky stew in every bite. I might be sold on stew this time. There’s plenty of winter ahead and lots of root vegetables in the fridge, so I’ll definitely be trying this again.
Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen
1¾ lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cloves
1 cup fruity red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch slices
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 black radishes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (or 2 more turnips or parsnips)
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
¾ cup cold wter
1/3 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 300F.
Dry the meat with paper towels. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the meat with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and the cloves. Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. In two batches, brown the beef on all sides. Add each batch to a large Dutch oven as it finishes browning. Add more oil, if needed.
Add the wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme to the Dutch oven with the browned beef. Bring it to a simmer (not a boil). Taste for seasoning. Cover the Dutch oven and place in to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250F and cook for another hour.
About 15 minutes before the hour is up, in a skillet over medium heat, add another 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Gently cook the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots sprinkled with salt, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, but not brown (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining vegetables and another sprinkle of salt, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Place the cold water and flour in a jar. Shake well until it is well-combined.
Add the slurry along with the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Stir everything together, and replace the pot in the oven. Cook for another 40 minutes. The gravy will thicken as the vegetables cook through. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
Serve over celery root puree or another accompaniment of your choice.