There are a couple of simple keys to making a great beef stew. Buy good beef, brown it really well on all sides, don’t crowd the pan during the process, and don’t move it while it’s browning. If you do that, and mingle it with other best-quality ingredients, you can’t go wrong. This is my favorite kind of supper to make during a busy time of year. It’s a one pot meal with leftovers that last a couple of days. And it’s filling and delicious and everyone loves it. I serve it with farmhouse rolls, either store bought or homemade (recipe later). It’s an easy winter staple.
Beef Stew Tips
It is very important that you not crowd the beef in the pan. It will steam rather than brown if it doesn’t have enough room.
Resist the temptation to fuss with the beef as it browns. You will see the crust forming at the edge of the pieces, so you don’t need to peek at it. If you move it, it will not develop a proper crust.
Browning the meat will develop a lovely, deep fond on the bottom of the pan. A fond is the caramelized drippings and bits of meat that form a crust on your pan as you brown meat.
Deglazing the pan is simply scraping up the brown bits and fond from the bottom and sides of the pan. Use a bit of broth and a wooden spoon to get every last bit. It add tremendous flavor to the stew.
Yield: about 6 to 8 servings
Olive oil for the pan
2 pounds good stew meat
1 large onion, peeled and cut into a very large dice
6 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
6 yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
8 ounces crimini (or other) mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
1 T. dried thyme
1 t. culinary lavender
2 bay leaves
8 c. chicken stock, homemade (or Swanson’s organic)
28 ounces whole tomatoes in their juice (I prefer Bionaturae or Muir Glen.)
salt and pepper
- Heat a large Dutch oven or pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, drizzle in a few turns of olive oil.
- Add the beef piece by piece, placing them so that they have space between them. Allow the beef to brown without disturbing it until it has a deep golden brown crust and pulls easily from the bottom of the pan. Turn the pieces and brown them on all sides in this manner.
- Remove the browned beef from the pan and place it on a plate. Brown the remaining beef and move it to the plate.
- Spoon off any excess fat from the bottom of the pan and add the onions. Sauté them until they are soft. Add the carrots and sauté them until they are beginning to soften.
- Add a bit of stock to the pot and, with a wooden spoon, deglaze the pan. (See tips above.)
- Add the beef back to the pan, the potatoes, the mushrooms, and the thyme, lavender, and bay leaves, and then the stock.
- Drain the tin of tomatoes over the pot. Then, with immaculately clean hands, crush the tomatoes over the pot. If you have soft tomatoes, they will crush completely. If your tomatoes are a bit more firm, squeeze out all of their juice and then place the pulp on a cutting board. Finely mince all of the pulp and add it back to the pan.
- Season the stew with salt and pepper and simmer it uncovered over very low heat until it is thickened and the meat and vegetables are tender, about one hour.
- Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning.
- This stew will keep covered in the refrigerator for about four days.