Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beef Stew

So this is probably the ugliest meal I've posted.  To date, anyway.

It's not beef stew's fault that it's ugly.

But regardless of how it looks, you should still make it.

Because it tastes really good.  And that's all that matters.  Because I'll pull my hair out the next time some Food Network celebrity chef says "You eat with your eyes first."

I don't.  So there.

Besides, who doesn't love a pot of tender, flavorful meat and vegetables?

It's a lot of steps, but it's an inexpensive meal with a lot of flavor.  And it spends most of its time in the oven, where the meat gets super tender.

So we're going to start with some olive oil.

So now we want to get out the beef cubes and toss them with some flour.

And now we have a mound of floured meat.  Time to brown it in the olive oil!

I had to do it in three batches - don't overcrowd the meat in the pan.  That is a cardinal sin in the making of beef stew, because then the meat will just steam and get gray (ew) instead of get brown and crusty on the outside (which is exactly what we want).

You'll need to add about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot for each batch.  After three batches, our mound of floured meat looks like this:

See how nice and brown it is?  Oh, and you don't need to cook it through here - it's going into the oven for a couple of hours and it will cook then and become fall-apart tender.

When the meat is browned, you can toss in the veggies that sister helped chop:

Stir it around and let it get coated in all of that browned goodness in the bottom of the pan left behind by the meat that you browned.

Add the meat back to the pot

and then pour in the stock and tomatoes

and add some herbs while you're at it

Cover the pot and stick it in the oven for a good couple hours.  The meat will get so tender and the herbs will flavor the stock and all the flavors will have a party and get married.

You'll see what I mean when you make this stew.

Okay!  After a couple of hours, poke the carrots to make sure they're tender.  And then stick a fork in the meat to make sure it's super tender.  It should be.  If not, stick it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and check it again.

Now we're going to finish the stew with sauteed mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and peas.  And we're going to thicken the sauce just a tad with some cornstarch.

So melt some butter and saute the mushrooms.

Bring the stew to a boil on the stove and stir in the mushrooms.  And then stir in the slurry of cornstarch and water that you made.  The broth should thicken immediately.  Now stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the peas.  As soon as the peas are hot, you're ready for dinner!

You should probably make some mashed potatoes and serve the stew on top.  I know it's retro, but it's the real deal.

And your family will totally love you for it.

Beef Stew

2 T olive oil
2 1/2 lbs beef chuck, chopped into medium cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 cups beef stock
15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 T thyme leaves (about a small bunch) or a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves
1 T rosemary leaves (2-3 sprigs) or a teaspoon of dried
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 T butter
1 lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 T cornstarch
1 T water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T Worcestershire sauce
12 oz. bag frozen baby peas

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper and toss the beef cubes in it.  Brown the meat in the olive oil over medium-high heat, turning to make sure each side gets brown.  You don't want to crowd the pan with beef so you'll need to do this step in several batches.  Remove the browned meat from the pan and let it rest on a plate while you're browning the rest of the beef.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pan and let it rest on a plate.  Toss the carrots and onions into the oil and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently until they are slightly browned and they start to tenderize.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Return the beef to the pot and add the beef stock, tomatoes, thyme, one tablespoon each of salt and pepper.  Cover the pot and bring it to a boil on the stove.  Once bubbling, place in a 300 degree oven to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is falling apart when you stick it with a fork and the carrots are very tender.

Remove from the oven and return to a simmer on the stove.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and saute the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, until slightly browned and tender.  Sprinkle the flour on top of the mushrooms and stir it around, cooking the flour for a minute with the mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the stew and stir well.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir the frozen peas into the stew.  Stir well, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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