Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beef Stew

I've told you about this stew before. I made it when I had my family over for dinner last month, and it went over very well. Although we were left without any leftovers that day, I had some stew beef left over in the freezer, so I knew I'd have to make it one more time before winter ended. Fortunately, I chose this week to do it - I have a cold and nothing currently sounds better to me than that leftover stew gracing the refrigerator.

I always felt stew would be complicated and involved - it does have complex layers of flavor - but this recipe couldn't be easier. It just involves a little pre-planning, since most of the ingredients go in five hours before the stew is ready to serve. Just pop the prepped stew in the oven, and remove to the stovetop to finish off with vegetables an hour or so before serving. The vegetables probably could go in from the beginning, making your work even easier, but the blogger I got this recipe from says she adds them later so they don't get as soggy. That sounds good to me, so I've done it the same way.

This may be the only regret I have about winter going away. You should make it soon, while it's still a bit chilly out there! I think I'm going to go finish off those leftovers for lunch right now . . .

Beef Stew

1 lb stew meat
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped into large pieces
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1-2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
6 c beef stock
1 c diced carrots
1 c diced celery
2 c diced baby red potatoes (I recommend you cut them smaller than I did this time - they still came out nice and soft, but were a little large in comparison to the other ingredients)

Preheat oven to 250° F (also, check to make sure your pot will fit in the oven - I usually forget to remove a rack until it's done preheating, which is awkward). Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven (mine is 5 quarts) or other oven-safe pot over medium heat (I imagine this could be made in a crock pot as well, but I'd brown the meat on the stove first, for flavor). Add the stew meat and onions and cook for about 5 minutes (you should have more beef than this - I used less than half a pound because I was trying to get rid of leftovers - but the stew was still excellent with reduced meat!).

Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and stock. Cover and move to the oven. Cook for at least 4 hours.

Remove from the oven and return to the stovetop over medium heat (I even turned it a bit lower, since mine kept threatening to boil over). Add the carrots, celery and potatoes.

Taste the broth and re-season if necessary. If it's too thin, you can add a slurry of cold broth and corn starch to thicken it up (I did this the first two times I made it, since I like a thick broth, but I forgot to this time and never noticed the difference). Cover and cook 1-1 1/2 hours more. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving!

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