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Beef Veggie Stew November 21, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, Home, soupe du semaine.
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Who ever would have seen this coming?

Wednesday, I write about walking the baby after the first snowfall of the year. And Thursday, Peeps writes about driving in the first snow of the year.

And here it is Friday, and we’re gonna talk about beef stew.

Welcome to winter, folks.

Boy, do I need to get a life, or what? 

A nice bowl of warm beef stew, along with maybe some dumplings or biscuits – is there any more welcoming dinner after a cold day of braving the elements?

Yeah, I don’t think so, either.

Not to mention an opportunity to perhaps use up some past-its-prime beef, along with a drawer full of hearty autumn vegetables. Just sign me up now. So let’s get started.

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The first thing you’re going to want to do is to take a pound or two – whatever’s handy – of beef and whack it up into cubes of about an inch or two. I used brisket, because we had a package of scraps in the freezer that had been there, uh, too long.  Normally, I’d probably use chuck, or maybe sirloin if it was cheap.

Anyway, toss your beef chunks into a large bowl with about ½ cup flour, 1 tsp. kosher salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, and a couple of Tablespoons of whatever dried herbs you like – I used some rosemary, dried thyme (just a little), sage, and a little garlic powder. Toss to coat.

Meanwhile, heat a couple of Tablespoons vegetable oil in your stew pot (I use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven – then brown the floured beef in a single layer – brown in batches if necessary – just don’t crowd the pan! You’re going to want to spread the beef in the bottom of the pan, then don’t touch it for several minutes, until the bottom is well browned. Then turn the chunks over and continue browning each side. The heat should be medium-high – the meat will stick a little, but you don’t want it to burn, that’s all.

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The meat won’t be completely cooked (obviously!), but you’re going to want to see some nice browned bits on it. This adds flavor and texture and all sorts of beefy goodness to the finished stew!

Now just dump about ½ cup of beef stock into the pan and use it to deglaze, scraping the stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pan.

Yummy yummy fond.

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While you were standing around waiting for your meat to cook, you’ll want to have diced a couple of onions, a good-sized carrot (you might want to peel the carrot first – depends on how tough the peel is, I guess), and a couple of ribs of celery. Dice them pretty small – this is your (you know it) mirepoix.  Once your meat, then the liquid, comes out of the pan, heat a little more oil, and start cooking the mirepoix, too – you’ll want to lightly salt it, and let it get soft and ever-so-slightly browned.

Deglaze the pan – again – with another half-cup or so of stock.

Again, while the mirepoix was cooking, you’ll want to prep the rest of your vegetables. I used a couple more carrots (what’s stew without carrots, anyway), a freakishly huge russet potato (it must have weighed over a pound!), a few parsnips (I’m lovin’ those parsnips!), and some of our mystery vegetable – cereriac. I cut the veggies into large-ish hunks – maybe 2 inch cubes or so. This isn’t a delicate soup, it’s a hearty stew.

This should be interesing. That celeriac is one butt-ugly vegetable, isn’t it? One might even say it’s fugly!

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So where were we? OK, the “veggie” part of the beef vegetable stew is ready. Return the cooked meat (and juice) to the pot, along a pint (or 2 cups) (or a 15-oz. can) diced tomatoes, along with all the rest of your prepped veggies. Add a healthy shot of black pepper, along with another cup or so of beef stock.

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Obviously, that’s not much liquid. I actually could have added the rest of the quart of beef stock, or maybe a bit of red wine, both of which I typically do. But I didn’t do that this time. Nope, I decided to do something new.

I added two half-bottles of beer.

What? Two half-bottles?

“Why not a whole bottle?” you ask.

Because I’ve been standing over that stove for an hour now, and Peeps has also been working in the kitchen alongside me, and the dog is right there under our feet (how one dog can manage to lie under 4 feet is beyond me!), and we’re sweating! I dumped the first half beer into the stew, and gave him the rest, then the second half-beer was for me.

Always planning, that’s me.

Anyway, give the stew a good stir, cover it, cover and place it on low heat on the back burner. Once you’ve finished your beer, check on it, stirring, and taste the broth. If it tastes slightly bland (which it probably will – we didn’t use much salt, you’ll remember) adjust the seasonings accordingly.

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A quick note. While you can certainly season your stew with salt, I like to use beef base – it’s mostly salt, but has some beef, uh, product in it, and, therefore, brings a little more flavor than just salt alone. This is a trick that most restaurants use, though I don’t suppose it’s much of a “secret” anymore – there are decent beef, chicken, and ham bases available in most reaonable supermarkets now.

And no, it’s not the same thing as bouillon.

You’ll notice that as the stew cooks, it will thicken. Remember the flour we tossed the beef in at the very beginning? Yeah, amazing, isn’t it?

If you’re worried about burning, feel free, in necessary, to add a little bit of liquid – it’s going to get thicker as it sets anyway. And there’s not much worse than stew burned to the bottom of a pot, is there?

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As you know by now, we like to make our soup ahead of time and let it really come together in the fridge for a couple of days. Well, stew is really no different, is it? Really, about the only differences here are the flour, the size of the dice, and the amount of liquid. This would also be a stellar beef-vegetable soup, wouldn’t it?

So into the fridge it went, until it was time to serve beef stew and biscuits for dinner. Once we heated it, we did a final flavor check, and it still needed. . . something. Rather than go the salt route, or even the beef base route, I added a couple of splashes of soy sauce.

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Yes, soy sauce. Peeps thought it was a little weird, too. But it was just what we needed – the saltiness of the soy, while enhancing the flavors, also helps bring out a certain earthiness that would otherwise have been lost. Soy sauce – it’s not just for Asian food anymore, you know.

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So there you have it.

A thick, hearty beef stew, braised in beef stock and beer, and full of beef and lovely root vegetables, alongside some lovely butternut squash biscuits – the perfect way to ease into the winter season. . . not too bad, huh?

And here’s the printable version of the above recipe – Dark Side Beef Veggie Stew.

Enjoy. We are.

And leave me a comment if you try this – let me know how you like it!

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Comments

1. origamifreak - November 22, 2008

mmm. looks good.

2. judy - November 23, 2008

Hi again. Yes, that DOES look good. Snow I can do without tho.

j

3. Toy Lady - November 24, 2008

Yeah, I’ve had about enough snow myself. 🙄

And I’m still enjoying the stew for lunches. 😀 I don’t think I’d ever used beer in stew before. It really is different. In a good way. 😉


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