Supreme comfort food is not pretty but dang, does it ever help the soul. This post is more of a tutorial on how to go about making beef stew and it was inspired by Paula Deen’s Old-Time Beef Stew recipe. I made many changes though which I will outline here. I made this for a Halloween feast last year and it was the best stew I had ever eaten. This time I did not have beef consomme or red tomato paste and think that took away a bit from the dazzling flavour but it was still very, very tasty.
I trimmed off the fat from a big package of stewing beef and cut the beef into bite-sized pieces. I floured the beef with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. The flour will be the thickening agent for the sauce later on.
In small batches I browned the beef over medium-high heat in olive oil so the beef would have space to brown. When beef is close together it will steam instead. This way you get all sorts of brown bits on the bottom which will look terrible now but taste delicious later!
I removed all the beef, added more olive oil and sauteed one small diced onion and three minced garlic cloves for a few minutes.
I returned the beef to the pan and added 1 cup of red wine and 1 cup of beef broth, definitely using consomme next time. Save the broth for soup! Make sure to really scrape off all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom, there will be a lot and that is OK. Perfectly normal.
For flavourings I added 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 bay leaves, some salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp of dried thyme. If I had some tomato paste I would add 1-2 tbsp at this point. The beef takes much longer to cook than the veggies so I covered the pot and let it simmer on a pretty low heat for 1 1/2 hours, checking in on it now and then and stirring the sticky bits off the bottom.
Then I added a couple of sliced carrots, celery and two small potatoes with skins on into the pot, covered and continued to simmer for 40 minutes. Check for seasoning, depending on the broth or consomme you added you may not need additional salt but make sure to check! It makes such a difference. You do not want to over season the dish.
Yup, not super pretty but darn delicious on a cold winter’s night. I had this with some homemade focaccia bread to dip in to the brown sauce.
Making a homemade stew is not labour intensive, it is just time consuming but the payoff for that tender beef and deep gravy is worth it. You can even double up on the meat and some of the veggies, boost the liquids a bit so you can make sure to have leftovers the next day. Stews are always even better after they have had time to rest and the flavour meld together.
This is the time of year I crave what my mom calls peasant foods: big chunks of meat and veggies with lots of sauce. Bring it on.