Stellar Beef Stew

I love stew, but it’s one of those dishes that is kind of an art.  It requires some serious attention, key ingredients and a lot of love.  In the world of Alisha stew must be thick, hearty, loaded with meat and veggies and overflowing with flavor.

Yesterday morning as I wrote about how frigid it was outside and thought about how cold my poor husband must have been while he was horseback checking on cattle, I knew that I needed to fix something not only belly warming, but soulful.  I wanted to use some sort of beef that was already in my deep freezer.  I’ve been intrigued by chili recipes that use cubed roast or stew meat.  I searched through my cookbooks and didn’t find anything that spoke to me.  In my search I happened upon a beef stew recipe that sounded A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  The picture was EXACTLY what I would want my stew to be.  So, stew it was.

Even though this recipe has peas in it, I would go so far as to say that it’s picky eater approved.  Tucker didn’t notice the peas much and the flavors so were so earthy and rich that you couldn’t pick out one thing over the other.  It was a perfect marriage of ingredients.

Here’s how it goes….

Stellar Beef Stew (recipe courtesy of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

1 3 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch cubes (or use already prepared stew meat from your butcher)

2 TBSP vegetable oil

2 onions, minced

1 TBSP tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 cup dry red wine (VERY IMPORTANT INGREDIENT!!!!!  DON’T SKIP OUT!!!!)

2 cups chicken broth

1 TBSP minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried

2 bay leaves

1.5 lbs. red potatoes (approx. 5 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1.5 inch chunks

4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin or diced

1 cup frozen peas

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 300 degrees.  Pat the beef dry with a paper towel, then season well with salt and pepper.  Heat one tablespoon oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking.  Brown the meat making sure not to overcrowd the pan (about 10 minutes), then transfer to a plate.  You may need to do this in batches.  Leave the meat on the plate.  Don’t worry if the meat isn’t cooked all the way through.  It will finish cooking later.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the empty pot and return to medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened.  Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Sitr in the broth, thyme, bay leaves, and browned beef along with any accumulated juices.  Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the oven.  Cook for 1 hour.

Sitr in the potatoes and carrots.  Cover and continue to cook in the oven until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through, approximately 1 hour.

Remove the pot from the oven and discard the bay leaves.  Stir in the peas and let stand off the heat for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

***Notes***

Make sure that you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go once the meat is browned as the steps go quickly!!!  I almost burned my garlic and tomato paste due to not having everything right at my fingertips.

The wine… oh, the wine!!!  This is so, so, so, so important in the flavor factor of this recipe.  On your way home from the trip to the grocery store stop by your local liquor store and get a cheap $8 bottle of merlot.  I don’t drink merlot, but I cetainly didn’t mind parting with the money on something that made this dish STELLAR!!!!

Browning your meat.  Make sure that when you brown your meat you’re actually BROWNING it.  This means that you WANT to get that great carmelization and crust on it.  That browning gives some serious flavor boosters to the stew.

Finally, make sure you are very hungry when you make this because (a) it’s ridiculously hearty (Cambell’s Chunky Soup eat your heart out!) and (b) you won’t want to stop with just one bowl.  It’s addicting.  CRAZY GOOD!!!

Peace, love and warm bellies!

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