Winter Evenings Need Beef Stew

Although we haven’t seen real snow in Boston yet, it hasn’t stopped the temperature from dropping.  Combine that with the dutch oven recently added to my kitchen arsenal and you’re going to get yourself some beef stew at my house.  This was one of the first of my mom’s recipes that I mastered after getting my own apartment.  Maybe because it’s so hideously simple.

Regardless, it’s really nice to be able to cook something yourself and have it taste just like your mom’s.  Since it’s my mother’s recipe, you end up with enough to feed an army.  It works just as well if you cut it in half. I hesitate to call it a recipe since it feels more like assembly after you’ve done it a couple of times. Here’s the rundown:

Ingredients:

2 lbs. stew meat (This usually comes pre-cut in bite-size pieces)
1-2 cups flour
pepper
2 tbsps bacon fat or olive oil
1 box of beef broth plus one 32 oz can
4 carrots peeled and cut in large bite-size pieces
4-5 red potatoes cut the same
1 large onion cut the same

Needs:

medium mixing bowl
dutch oven or large pot
tongs

Add flour to the bowl and stir in a few cracks of fresh ground pepper. Toss the meat into the flour a few pieces at a time and flip with the tongs to coat evenly. In the meantime, heat the bacon fat (trust me) over medium high heat in the dutch oven.

Brown the meat in the pot a few pieces at a time. Adding it all at once will reduce the heat of the pot and cause the meat to steam. As Anne Burrell says “not delicious.” The important part of all this is not to harass the meat while it browns.  Let it sit and form a crust.  Transfer pieces to a plate as they brown to make room for more.  Brown bits will start sticking to the bottom of the pot which is great but add more fat if the pot dries out too much.  This is the most time consuming part of the process hence, the lack of photos.

Once all the meat is browned, add it all back into the pot and add the beef broth.  Cover and let simmer for an hour.  After an hour, add all the veggies and let it all simmer while covered for another two hours or more.  Since you’re using a tougher (and more affordable) cut of meat, the longer you let it simmer, the more tender it will become.  I usually take the cover off and simmer for another half hour to thicken it a bit. If you want to speed up that step, transfer a cup of broth to a small bowl and gradually stir in some flour to form a roux.  Add the roux to the stew and let it cook until the broth thickens and the raw flour taste is cooked out.

Serve in a big bowl with crusty bread and make everyone (non-vegetarian) in your house happy.  This stew is even better reheated the next day or frozen and defrosted on the stove.  Good thing you made extra.

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