Beef stew has always been on my list of comfort foods. I remember it was a big deal when my mom would bust out the crock pot and a trusty packet of onion soup mix and make a batch of stew on a chilly fall day. Over the years I’ve made too many renditions of this classic dish to count, but the recipe below is what I’ve settled on to make at home at least bi-weekly from October to March. You see, as the saying goes, ‘You Make a Plan and God Laughs’ rings very true in my household when it comes to feeding my oldest son Charlie. As a naive new mom I thought I had the best eater in the world on my hands. He would readily try new foods, eat just about any vegetable under the sun and I vowed to never make him a separate meal; he would simply eat what we were having. Parenting is so easy!
Fast forward a few years and we are now in what we are lovingly referring to as “the f#$%ing fours” period. People like to warn you about the “terrible twos”, but let me TELL you about 4-year olds. They are fiercely independent, yet have trouble accomplishing big kid tasks. They are incredibly stubborn (which is also an inherited trait from my husband, love you, mean it) and they can and will throw a blue ribbon winning sh*t fit when given the opportunity. Suffice to say, sometimes dinner time is anything but pleasant. But this stew is something EVERYONE will eat, and happily too. Charlie is a meat and potatoes kid through and through so this plays well for him. As a typical second child, Teddy is just happy to be here and munches on the soft and succulent beef, as well as some of the veggies diced into baby-sized bites. I often make a double batch of this (which easily fits in a large dutch oven) and freeze half in ice cube or baby food trays to pull out for the kids when I don’t feel like fighting or don’t have the heart to serve frozen chicken tendies again.
I would say this recipe is loosely adapted from Queen Ina herself, and her classic recipe for Parker’s Beef Stew. In that recipe she calls to marinate the beef overnight in a WHOLE bottle of red wine. It certainly adds flavor and helps to tenderize the beef, but I skip it for a few reasons. 1) If I have a whole bottle of red wine around, chances are I would rather drink it instead of using it as a marinade. 2) I never have my act to together far enough in advance to pull this off and 3) I actually prefer a more tomato-y based stew to a red wine based stew, so adding just a little wine to deglaze the pan adds the dimension of flavor I prefer in a classic stew recipe. All that to say, Ina can do zero wrong in my book so if you feel so inclined, give your beef an overnight bath in vino before giving this a try!
Classic Beef Stew
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 pound beef stew meat, patted dry
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 4 celery stalks, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon ‘good’ balsamic vinegar
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups stock of choice
- 1 pound baby potatoes, halved
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350˚F. Add canola oil to a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven and set over medium high heat. Season the beef liberally with kosher salt and pepper, then toss to coat in flour. Once the canola oil is shimmering, add half the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, or until deeply browned. Flip and cook on the other side, about 4-5 minutes, or until deeply browned. Remove from heat with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate while you repeat with remaining meat. Once all of the beef has been browned, set aside on the plate, then add mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until crisp and brown. Add cooked mushrooms to the same plate with the beef, then drain and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat and beef drippings from the dutch oven.
To the same dutch oven, add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables well, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and wine to deglaze the pan; using a wooden spoon to scrape up any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let wine and vinegar cook for 1-2 minutes, or until it reduces by half, then add diced tomatoes and stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and add reserved beef and mushrooms and potatoes. Cover and place in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender.
Remove from the oven and add peas. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then stir through to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then top with fresh parsley before serving.
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