How to Make a Great Beef Stew
Being a novice home-cook, I still use my cookbooks and cooking magazines to generate ideas and learn techniques and that’s how I approach most recipes including this one for stew. First, I look up the dish in several cookbooks and read about the essential ingredients and what cooking techniques are involved. You’d be surprised at the number of ways there are to make the same dish.
Next, I see what’s on hand in my refrigerator and pantry and put together a shopping list. The beauty of a preparing stew is the flexibility it gives you with ingredients — it’s another “what’s on hand“ dish.
This recipe is for beef chuck (from the shoulder) and vegetable stew, but you could easily substitute veal, pork, or chicken. Because stewing tenderizes tough pieces of meat, you can save a buck by purchasing less expensive cuts from the rump, shoulder, and legs.
Remember, all meat is essentially muscle and those muscles less used by the animal will be more tender but typically less flavorful. Meat from the more exercised muscles will be tough but have more flavor. So it’s important to use the proper cooking technique with the specific cut of meat. Check out the beef charts at How to Buy a Great Steak.
This is an easy recipe to prepare but involves a lot of prep time. It’s best to get all the ingredients ready before you start. The French call this “ mise en place” (MEEZ ahn plahs) or “everything in its place.” This is how professional chefs do it and I suggest you incorporate it into your cooking practice.
This recipe also calls for wine and I suggest you use decent one. Remember, “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!”
8 slices of bacon
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
salt & pepper, to taste
1 large onion, chopped
3 leeks, chopped and well rinsed (use the white part and an inch or two of the green)
6 carrots, peeled and cut into
1 1/2 inch julienne
2 turnips, peeled and cut into pieces
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 1/2 cups of homemade beef stock
2 1/2 cups of red wine (preferable Burgundy, but drinkable)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of red currant jelly
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups of pearl onions, red or white
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (wild mushrooms if available)
8 -10 red new potatoes, quartered
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
How To Prepare At Home
- Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan until the fat is rendered. Remove the crisp bacon and transfer it to a large heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. (approximately 5-6 quarts)
- Sauté the beef in the same pan until all sides are browned. Don't crowd the beef or it will steam and not brown properly, so cook it in batches if necessary. Season with a little salt and pepper. When finished, transfer to your large cooking pot.
- Add the onions, leeks, carrots, and turnips to the sauté pan, add sugar and cook over medium high heat for approximately 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and reserve in a large bowl.
- Add the butter to the sauté pan and sauté the mushrooms over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to the reserved vegetables.
- Add the wine to deglaze the sauté pan, then the beef stock, and then whisk in red currant jam, tomato paste and rosemary. Cook for a couple of minutes and add to the pot with the meat and bacon.
- Add the potatoes and garlic to the meat, bacon, and cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add the reserved vegetables, half the chopped parsley and continue cooking until the meat is tender. (approximately 30-45 minutes)
- Serve using the remaining parsley for garnish.
This is great with some French bread and a bottle of Burgundy wine especially on one of these cold nights.
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