Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Perfect Beef Stew

Rarely (if ever) do I claim that something I make is "the best." I am hesitant to call this recipe "perfect," since it's not something I eat (red meat), but my family claims that it's amazing, and Kevin has even proclaimed, "I'd give this SIX bowls if I could!" I have to admit - it makes me feel great!

Anyway, I made this dish for my sister in law, when she had a baby recently. I found it on the Food Network website, and it had gotten very good reviews, so I decided it was worth a try. Now, mind you, beef stew is an afternoon affair. It takes about 3 hours to make. Granted, it's not all "hands-on time," but it's fairly labor and time intensive. I was excited to make it, though, and I put a lot of love into it. When Kevin tried it, he was really blown away, and actually a bit sad, since I had to give it away. I made the stew again last weekend - this time, in the slow cooker. It was equally as good, despite the fact that it was way too big for my crockpot, and basically overflowed onto my counter (oops). Also, because it's such a massive amount of stew, it took a whopping 10 hours to cook (a.k.a. I started it at 7 a.m., and we ate at 6 p.m.). All that being said, it was a great slow cooker meal, because I was able to start it when I woke up at 6, and then I didn't need to think about it until an hour before dinner, when I whipped up the barley.

The point is, you should make this. It's a very basic beef stew recipe, with no bizarre ingredients or directions. Oh, and it tastes terrific. My sister in law even told me that she would order it in a restaurant! You know, my little sis swears by the recipes she finds on Food Network, but I haven't had as much luck. I think I might be coming around, though...

A note about the beef: I have always used "Stew Meat," when I've made stews in the past. I just assumed everyone used stew meat, because it's already cut into perfect "stew sized pieces." Well, a few months ago, Kevin commented that stew beef is usually pretty low in quality. Hmph. So, this time, I bit the bullet, and bought beef chuck, and cut it myself. It makes a HUGE difference, and it's really no big deal. I mean, yes, it takes 10 more minutes to cut it, but it's well worth it. I bought a 3 pound package at BJ's Wholesale, and used the whole thing. I'd highly recommend it!

Make this. 5 Bowls!

Beef Stew


  • Vegetable oil, for searing
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 6ths
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, or to cover
  • 10 cups cold water, or chicken or beef broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 7 canned whole, peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • Cook's Note: Beef chuck, from the shoulder, because of its marbling of intra-muscular fat, is the choice for any type of stew. If you can't find chuck cubed for stew in your meat department, buy a thick chuck steak and cut it into 2-inch cubes.


Heat a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/4-inch deep. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, and add to the pan. Saute half the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well-browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef. Discard the oil and wipe out the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved beef and scatter the flour over the vegetable and beef mixture (enough to lightly coat) and cook stirring until lightly toasted. Add the water or broth, and bring to a simmer. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen twine and add the bundle to the pot. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook the meat until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (This can also be done on the stove at a low simmer.)

Remove pot from the oven. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid with a spoon or ladle. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the herb bundle. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

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