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As the deepest darkest days of winter settle in around us, I cannot help but crave stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. There is nothing quite like a hearty stew or braised dish that warms your frozen fingers and toes and fortifies you for a few more weeks of frigid temperatures. A good, old fashioned beef stew is the epitome of winter comfort food and I’m about to show you how to make it from scratch.
The most important thing when making a beef stew is to set aside plenty of time to do it. It does involve several hours in the oven, but it’s not like you have to stand around and watch it cook. You just need to be present to make sure your house doesn’t burn down and check the meat for tenderness on occasion.
What type of beef for stew?
The second most important thing is your cut of meat. There are a couple different options for beef stew. First, there is what’s called “stew beef”. It’s pre-cut pieces usually found in a tray in 1-2 pound packages. I don’t prefer this particular cut for stew. Mostly because it’s all different cuts of beef, which means that they all cook in different times and they are usually cut way too small for my personal taste.
I prefer a single beef chuck roast. You could also use a bottom round or rump roast if those are on sale that day. Either way, a single cut of meat is preferable so that the meat in the stew will require the same length of time to cook.
What kind of Pot for Beef Stew?
Believe it or not, the kind of pot you use for old fashioned beef stew (or pot roast, beef shanks, or short ribs) makes a difference. A cast iron dutch oven is preferable. I have a couple of giant Le Creuset pots that I have collected over the years, but if you don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a pot, then I recommend a Lodge dutch oven or even a Cuisinart one. Both are great pans and will do exactly what you need them to do, which is provide even heat and trap the steam.
If you find yourself without any kind of dutch oven, you can still make this in your biggest, heaviest pot (or even a deep skillet) but make sure to wrap the top tightly with aluminum foil before you stick this stew in the oven to help keep all of the steam in.
Is this stew worth 3 to 4 hours of your life? Absolutely. There is NOTHING like old fashioned cooking. You just won’t get the same unctuousness from a crock pot or a pressure cooker (although I do make a mean Beef Stew in the Crock Pot).
So, set aside a weekend afternoon and treat yourself to some fine, heart warming comfort food.
- 3 pound beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme any woody herb will do
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups dry red wine a cabernet or merlot would be good
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1.5 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Preheat your oven to 325. Season the chuck roast with the salt and pepper
- In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides and remove to a bowl. Reduce your heat to medium and add in the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the the thyme, flour and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and scrape the pan with the whisk to get up any browned bits and to incorporate the wine and flour together. Add the beef back to the pot along with any juices and stir in the beef broth and bay leaves. Cover and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the carrots and potatoes. Place the lid back on the pot and return to the oven for an additional hour.
- Check the meat for tenderness and flavor. Add more salt if needed and return to the oven to continue cooking if the meat is still tough.Remove the bay leaves before serving.