A stew usually means that pieces of meat or poultry are browned and then slowly cooked over low heat with some liquid. Vegetables are often added for additional flavor, and the long, slow cooking in liquid allows the meat to gradually tenderize.
Stews are best made with tougher cuts of meat, which means they are less expensive to prepare. That's a bonus that we all could use these days.
What really makes a beef stew a standout dish? The single most important tip is to select the right cut of beef. I have tried many cuts, with mixed results. The biggest problem is that the meat can become dry and stringy, which no sauce can rescue. If you use beef chuck roast, you will have a juicy, tender and flavorful stew.
This stew is not fancy, but it has a taste memory that makes me happy. It reminds me of my mother's basic American beef stew with some added flourishes. Chunks of beef chuck are dusted with flour, browned and slowly cooked in a zesty red wine and stock to bring out the rich beef flavor. Red wine vinegar adds a zing, and the tomato paste and herbs brighten the stew.
Serve this stew in shallow soup or pasta bowls garnished with parsley. I like to serve with a large basket of crusty country bread. Begin dinner with a simple green salad sprinkled with creamy blue cheese and toasted nus, dressed with simple citrus vinaigrette. Accompany the meal with a hearty zinfandel or merlot, and use it in the cooking as well. All you need is a crackling fire to create a cozy and delicious atmosphere to enjoy this cold weather gem.
--Letting the stew come to room temperature and then refrigerating overnight will further improve the flavor; it will also make removing any excess fat much easier.
--If desired, you can add 1 pound of sauteed button mushrooms to the stew when you add the defrosted baby onions.
--Beer can be substituted for the wine.
--Use other vegetables, such as cut-up parsnips or winter squash, and add along with the baby carrots.
Vegetable Beef Stew
Makes 6 servings
3 pounds chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1 medium-size carrot, peeled and sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine like zinfandel or merlot
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
1 sprig fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3/4 pound baby carrots, peeled
1 bag (7 ounces) frozen pearl onions, defrosted
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Pat the meat dry. Place the flour in a lock-top plastic bag, and add salt and pepper. Shake it. Place the meat in the bag and seal it. Shake the bag around until the beef is lightly coated with the flour.
2. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the dredged beef pieces to the pan, in batches if necessary, and brown them evenly on all sides, turning with kitchen tongs, for 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Drain the beef pieces and reserve.
3. Add the vinegar, and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the brown bits. Decrease the heat to medium. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and saute the onions for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until nicely browned. Add the sliced carrot, and saute for 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add the reserved beef, beef stock, wine, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and sage.
4. Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat, covered, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the meat is almost tender.
5. Add the baby carrots, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots and meat are fork-tender. Add the pearl onions, and cook for 3 more minutes or until just cooked through. Remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon parsley, and mix to combine.
6. Garnish with remaining parsley, and serve immediately.
This dish can be made up to two days ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Reheat, taste for seasoning and serve.
This article is written by Diane Rossen Worthington from Seriously Simple and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.