Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beef Stew 101

Cool, gloomy, damp weather brings out the beef stew in me.  I love that this is one of those dishes that fills your house with the most wonderful, homey aroma.

The basis of my stew recipe evolves from a recipe published in 'A Skillet Full of Traditional Southern Lodge Cast Iron Recipes & Memories'.  This is a cookbook that is compiled by the South Pittsburg, Tennessee Historic Preservation Society.  South Pittsburg is the hometown of Lodge Manufacturing Company

 Season the meat with salt and pepper.  I like to use a chuck roast cut into stew-sized pieces.

Toss the seasoned meat with flour.

 Cooking starts out on the range top with browning the meat

then adding the onions to the pot.  After breaking up the onions you'll add half of the beef broth and bring to a boil to de-glaze the pot. The browned beef is then added back to the pot. Place the pot in the oven to cook slowly for an hour and a half.

Add the vegetables and return to the oven for another hour, or until the vegetables are tender.

Once the stew comes out of the oven you polish it off with tomato paste and a little red wine. 

This is the tomato paste I prefer.  It has a rich tomato taste and smooth texture.  Sometimes the paste in the little can has a metal taste to it and very rarely do I need to use the whole can so most of it goes to waste.

Beef Stew
Serves 8

3 Tbsp. + canola oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
1-1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew meat (I prefer using stew meat cut up from a chuck roast)
4 cups + beef broth, divided
1 large yellow onion
7-8 medium carrots
4 russet potatoes (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
1 large rib of celery
2 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
splash red wine

Mise en place:
  • rinse and dry stew meat
  • measure flour
  • measure beef broth, divided 2 cups and 2 cups
  • have a dish ready to hold the stew meat once browned
  • slice onion (see note below on slicing onion)
  • peel and slice carrots into bite-size pieces
  • dice celery
  • peel and dice potatoes into bite-size pieces
  • measure tomato paste
  • open bottle of red wine and drink, leaving at least a splash for the stew
NOTE:  Slice onion in half through the root.  Place one half, cut side down.  Instead of slicing on the root end begin slicing from the side of the half.  Slice them as thin as you can.  Repeat with the other half of the onion.

Preheat oven to 325° F.  In a large mixing bowl toss stew meat with salt and pepper, then flour to coat.  Heat a 5-1/2 quart Dutch oven over medium heat until very hot.  Add 3 Tbsp. oil to hot Dutch oven.  When oil shimmers, add just enough pieces of stew meat so that they are not touching.  Allow to brown and turn to brown on other side.  Place in a holding dish.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of meat.  Browning the meat in this way may take longer but if you try to brown the meat all at once you will only be steaming the meat and will not put a nice seared crust on the pieces of meat.

After all meat is browned and in the holding dish, add onion slices to pot and stir just enough to separate.  Add 2 cups of the broth.  Bring to a boil and de-glaze the fond from the bottom of the pot.  Return meat and any accumulated juices to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Cover pot and place in oven for 1-1/2 hours.   Half way through cooking time check pot for liquid level, making sure it has not cooked down too far.  If you find you need to add a little more broth, heat the broth in the microwave first.

Prior to end of the 1-1/2 hours cooking time, heat the remaining 2 cups beef broth in the microwave so you are not adding cold broth to the pot.

Add the carrots, celery, potatoes and remaining hot broth to pot.  Stir to combine. 

Cook for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until potatoes and carrots are tender but not mushy.

Remove the pot from the oven & stir the tomato paste and wine into the stew (for my splash of wine I pour it from the bottle counting one thousand one, one thousand two)

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