Stew is one of those wonderful comfort foods we love to eat in the winter. Usually when I make a batch it lasts for two or three meals and we never get tired of it as the next day it always tastes even better. It really is fairly simple to make and if you use vegetables stored from the garden it is very inexpensive. Here is one of my favorite stews. I find it difficult to write a recipe as I rarely make it the same way twice, however, in an effort to be able to pass recipes on to others, including my children I will attempt to measure the ingredients.
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make (in my opinion) is starting wrong. Stew meat while a cheap cut to purchase can be made wonderful by just a few changes from the usual throw it all in one pot recipe. Don't get me wrong! I love crock-pots and use the long simmering method for many recipes including this one but I don't just throw it all in and walk away. The meat needs to be browned first and not in large batches. You don't want juices to accumulate, you want the meat to brown and leave all those delicious bits on the bottom of the pan. So, here we go!
Gathering the ingredients2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 to 2 pounds Stew meat
1 large onion, diced
3 to 4 nice sized carrots, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 potatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons or so tomato paste
4 cups beef stock (5 if you used very large carrots and potatoes)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (if you have garlic cloves, use 2 and simmer with onions)
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed Thyme
1 teaspoon tarragon
Browning the meat. Look at all those yummy bits!
Heat the oil in a nice sized pot then in small batches add the meat and brown nicely on all sides, making sure not to add too much at a time as you don't want liquid to accumulate. Set meat aside for a few minutes. Add the chopped onion to the pot and fry it up until it caramelizes nicely. Next add the tomato paste. Stir it around and allow it to caramelize too but watch it carefully so it doesn't burn!
Now comes the fun part! Getting all those lovely bits off the bottom of the pan. Add about a cup of the beef broth and stir and scrap the sides and bottom of the pan. See all those yummy bits coming off? That's all delicious flavor you are adding to your stew. If you want to make it even more delicious you can substitute a couple cups of red wine for some of the broth. YUM! I didn't have any cheap red wine hanging around this time. Must have drank it all.....
Once the you have gathered up all those bits and the broth is nicely bubbling away add the rest of the broth and the meat back into the pot. The rest of the coarsely chopped veggies are next. Now it's time to think about your spices and herbs. The ones I've listed in the recipe is what I used this time but you can use whatever you have on hand. Your tastes might be different than mine. I tend to love lots of flavor in my stews and you might want to tone it down a bit. The only thing to remember about flavorings for stew is since you are making a stew with red meat you want to use stronger flavor than you would for say chicken. Here is a great article on herbs and spices to use with beef.
Next bring it to a simmer set the pot on the back of the wood stove in a spot I know it will simmer very slowly. You can do the same by turning the temperature down. Now just leave it for a bit. About 30 min. Then come back and give it a taste. Does it have the right amount of salt and pepper? Do you want more herbs or spices? Check the veggies to see how they are coming along. Almost there! Just leave it for about another 30 min or so maybe longer depending on how fast or slow it is simmering. There is no set time really. You want all the veggies to cook slowly and the herbs and spices to marry nicely. Once it is done I usually take it off the stove and allow it to sit about 10 min or so. Just so it cools a bit before we eat it. No sense burning your tongue on it! You want to be able to taste all those lovely flavors. Enjoy!