Beef stew is a must-have for cold winter nights. The broth is rich and complex, and the meat is fall-apart tender. This is the perfect meal to put in the crock pot and leave alone for 8 hours, or you can do it in your oven in 3-4.
This is my take on the classic beef stew recipe I learned from my grandmother. The beef stew’s broth gets its complexity from several flavor-building tricks. I Like to rehydrate porcini mushrooms in scalding liquid, then strain the “mushroom juice” and add it to my cooking liquid mix. Even more important to this rich-tasting stew is the meat-browning step followed by a deglaze with wine. The resulting mixture is infused with the beefy, delicious scrapings from the bottom of the pan. There’s really no substitute.
If this sounds like a lot of work for a meal during the workweek, relax: the great part is that you can do all of that the night before!
Vintage Beef Stew: prepping the vegetables
One non-delicious drawback to most classic crockpot beef stew recipes is that the vegetables tend to overcook and turn to mush. Thus, one departure I take in this recipe is that I parcook the vegetables and add them to the stew during the last 15-30 minutes of cooking time. This technique allows the flavors to meld, but preserves the texture of the vegetables.
I like to top this vintage beef stew with grated Romano and a sprinkling of flat-leaf parsley. This is a great time to have some crusty bread on hand to sop up the last remnants of delicious broth. I always enjoy the stew with a glass of the wine (usually the same one I used in the broth: if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t cook with it!). If you can let the stew sit in the refrigerator overnight, it’s even better. And even BETTER the day after that.
- 2 lb. chuck roast trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
- 3 tbsp. olive or canola oil more if needed
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 small bag pearl or cipollini onions trimmed (see notes)
- 3/4 pound small potatoes cleaned and cut in half
- 1 cup baby carrots cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup full-bodied red wine
- 5 cups cooking liquid see notes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary needles removed and minced, stem reserved
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley for serving
- grated Romano cheese for serving optional
Dry the meat with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Set a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/4 of the meat cubes. Brown the meat cubes deeply on two sides, then remove to a bowl and add the next small batch of meat cubes. Repeat until all meat cubes have been browned, adding more oil as necessary.
Reduce heat to medium and add the diced onion, adding more oil to the pot if needed. Sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary (stem too!), and bay leaves; sauté an additional minute. Stir in the red wine to deglaze the pot. Stir for 30 seconds, being sure to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. (SEE RECIPE NOTES FOR WORK-AHEAD OPTION) Add the cooking liquid. Stir until combined.
At this point, you can add the contents of the pot to a slow-cooker, along with the meat and any accumulated juices, a couple of pinches of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Set on low and leave alone for at least 6 hours and up to 8. OR, you can add the meat and juices back to the pot, season, bring to a boil, then place in a 325-degree oven until the meat is fork-tender, about 3 hours.
Skim any excess grease from the top of the stew with a spoon, or add as much of the broth as you can easily remove to a fat separator (see notes). Add the degreased broth back to the pot or slow-cooker.
Steam or par-boil the remaining vegetables until you can pierce them easily with a paring knife (there shouldn't be any resistance at all). Then I add the vegetables to the stew for the last 15-30 minutes of cook time and turn the slow-cooker to high.
Remove the bay leaves and rosemary stem. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and a light sprinkling of Romano cheese. Serve. Enjoy!
1. To easily remove the skins of the onions, boil them for 2-3 minutes. Cut off the root. They should squeeze right out of their skins.
2. For cooking liquid, I like to use a mix including red wine (up to an additional cup), beef broth, water, and mushroom rehydrating liquid: for this, I soak about 1/2 cup of dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of scalding water for 45 minutes, then strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, paper towels, or a coffee filter. You can either discard the mushrooms or chop them up finely and add to the stew. (Make sure to rinse them first.)
3. This stew is great when made a day in advance. You can skip the degreasing step in this case: simply refrigerate and use a large spoon to remove any solidified fat on top of the stew before reheating. Reheat gently on the stove-top.
WORK-AHEAD: you can complete all steps up to (and including) deglazing the pot with wine. Store the contents of the pot in the refrigerator overnight, then add to the crockpot along with the cooking liquid.
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