The Best Beef Stew

Beef Stew 1

When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.)

Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew.

Beef stew Collage

But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down to the point where chewing is unnecessary. These days, I make beef stew in the big red Le Creuset braiser I bought for myself, browning the meat first on the stovetop to create all those deep browned crusty bits that add so much flavour. (One day I made boeuf bourguignon for fifty, and browned so much beef that our kitchen was like a steamy meat sauna.)

Beef Stew 6

Once I have that foundation of browned bits, I add the onion and celery to the pan to loosen them (and create even more), then some beef stock, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar (because: yum) and red wine and let the whole thing simmer for a good couple hours, until it looks something like this:

Beef Stew 4

Then the potatoes (small, with their skins) and carrots (ditto), and even parsnips, if you’re into alternative root vegetables, get into the pool. Toss a handful of frozen peas in too, if you like.

Beef Stew 3

They get the chance to cook in the dark, sticky gravy, leaving everything awesome and not at all watery; enough to stand up to these neverending cold-snowy-icy days.

Beef Stew 2

Or for nights when you want to invite your dad over for dinner.

The Best Beef Stew

3-4 lb beef chuck or stewing beef, cut into 2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
canola oil, for cooking
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 cups (1 L) beef stock
1/2 bottle red wine (about 2 cups)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 lb. small, thin-skinned potatoes, halved
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1/2 cup peas, thawed (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place a heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the meat in batches, without crowding the pan, browning it well on all sides. Remove from the pot and add the onion and celery, if using. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and starting to loosen the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the vinegar and cook for another minute.

Add the stock and red wine, cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stir to coat everything well and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. (If you’re adding peas, stir them in for the last 5 minutes.) Serve hot.

Serves 6-8.

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February 06 2014 02:09 pm | beef & bison and one dish

15 Responses to “The Best Beef Stew”

  1. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe on 06 Feb 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    This. Looks. Fabulous. Love the story about your Pa too. :)

  2. Jules @ WolfItDown on 07 Feb 2014 at 2:35 am #

    Mmmm, it’s increduible what an extra hour in the pan can do to chewy bits of beef, like you say! I remember making a Jamaican Pepperpot and the meat melted in our mouths.
    The ingredients in this are all so simple, but that’s what makes it brilliant, and I love that you added peas, some people tend to leave them out!

    I hope you have a great weekend Julie! x

  3. jake on 07 Feb 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Looks delicious! A total winter prairie supper. Stew is a necessity in this weather.

    A batch of old school ‘baking powder biscuits’ from the recipe on the back of the old Blue Ribbon baking powder tin were always the side with beef stew. Hot with butter, dipped in the gravy!!! They doubled as dessert too with a jar of homemade strawberry or saskatoon berry jam and a cup of tea.

    I think Sunday dinner is planned.


  4. ajdoula on 07 Feb 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Oh Julie – this post made my mouth water! Beef stew on the menu this weekend for sure!

  5. northern mama on 07 Feb 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    no red wine here — beef stock instead?

  6. Julie on 07 Feb 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    Thanks guys! Jake – your description of warm biscuits with butter made my stomach rumble. YUM. And yes northern mama – just use more stock!

  7. Laurie from Richmond on 07 Feb 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Yum yum – and just right for these freezing days

  8. Theresa on 08 Feb 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Is that W? Wow, time flies…. :)

  9. Beef Stew | on 09 Feb 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    […] Thanks to Dinner with Julie for this recipe: […]

  10. Cath in Ottawa on 10 Feb 2014 at 4:57 am #

    I made this last night for my own dad and mum and it was a huge hit with everyone ages 5-75! Thanks for such a great recipe.

  11. Anonymous on 13 Feb 2014 at 10:04 am #

    When do you return the meat to the pot? Looks yummy.

  12. Robin on 22 Feb 2014 at 11:23 am #

    This looks amazing! And my boyfriend just asked me this morning to make stew for dinner tomorrow night…honestly! Just one question – what potatoes do you use?

  13. Katie on 22 Feb 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious but the vegetables were not cooked at all after the given time. We ended up eating them half done because our kids were starving. I put the pot back in the oven and they are done now that our kids are in bed :)

  14. Laurel on 23 Feb 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Making this today! House smells amazing! Perfect for a gold medal day!

  15. ‘Soup’er Sundays | Making it Up as They Grow on 04 Oct 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    […] Next up is a beef stew recipe that I found online at Dinner with Julie. It is simple, stick to your bones goodness.  I made a few changes to the recipe and I just adapted it so it could be frozen and reheated in a slow cooker to simplify a weeknight meal. Julie’s original recipe can be found here. […]

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