Midweek Beef Stew

I usually stay away from those packages of cut up stew meat for fear that they may be a mixed bag, but every now and then there’s a tempting remainder from a good butcher, the package of stew meat from a beef quarter in the freezer or something picked up when there isn’t time to cube and trim a section of chuck. Almost always we find good value in the cuts of meat that take longer to cook.

A simple beef stew’s welcome for all seasons. It works with potatoes, carrots and parsnips on cool days, and it’s great poured over egg noodles or linguine next to a fresh green salad on warmer days. It’s something to put together one evening and heat up the next day for a quick supper. It’s something to make in quantity with plans for more than one meal since the seconds will undoubtedly taste better than the firsts. It’s a dish that takes to a multitude of variations: add canned diced tomatoes, oregano and basil to make it Italian, add a stick of cinnamon and a couple of long swivel peels of orange to make it Greek, add stripped roasted red peppers, more garlic and chili to make it Spanish, add a bit of star anise, some julienned fresh ginger, and soy sauce to give an Asian flair.  Keep your stew lean for health and you’ll find the contents pleasing for dinners, sandwich fillings and bits to strew in a main dish salad. Here’s a basic slow cooked braise that gives maximum flavor for minimum cost.

Midweek Beef Stew

1 lb. beef stew meat trimmed and cut in 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil, or rendered flavorful pork fat (bacon)

l medium onion diced

1 medium carrot diced

1-2 branches celery diced

4-5 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup red or white wine, beer or 1 tablespoon wine vinegar plus water

½ cup stock or water

generous pinch dry thyme, crushed red pepper, 1 bay leaf

Optional: 2 medium potatoes, 4 oz. sliced mushrooms, sautéed.

Salt and pepper

Season the beef with salt and pepper and let rest at room temperature half an hour if possible.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil or dripping in a heavy frying pan and quickly brown the meat  remembering not to crowd the pan. Place the browned cubes in a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid (enameled cast iron is the best). Reduce heat and add the second tablespoon of oil to the pan with the meat residue. Gently sauté the diced onion, carrot and celery until limp. Stir in the chopped garlic and tomato paste allowing to cook until fragrant. Add the wine. beer or water and bring to a simmer. Pour the contents of the skillet over the beef. Deglaze the skillet with water or stock and add to the stew. Season with salt, pepper, herbs, chili to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours.

Halfway through the cooking time, top the stew with small or halved potatoes and continue to cook until both meat and spuds are tender. (If potatoes are done before the meat, remove them to a side dish to prevent bursting.) When the meat is tender, add mushrooms, if desired. The sauce may be thickened by whisking in a small lump of roux, or a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water. Serves 2 – 3.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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One Response to “Midweek Beef Stew”

  1. Nora Ellen Bowers Says:

    Love the “story telling” as much as the recipes

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