Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hearty Beef Stew

Beef stew is rather...unattractive, no?  It's got so many good things going for it, but looks aren't one of them.  It's got a lot of heart, though (but let's be clear, there's no actual heart in this).  It's like the nerdy kid who asked you to prom and will later on be the CEO of some Silicon Valley tech start-up.  Note: I completely made that up as no nerdy kids I knew asked me to prom and later on became the CEO of a tech start-up.  I just like the idea of it.  The beef is tender and the mushrooms add an earthiness that only mushrooms can.  Carrots, onion, and potatoes round out the substance of this tomato-y, spicy stew.

Shooting with my sister's countertops looks like my ingredients are in a black hole.  The meat (heh) of this stew needs: carrots, onion, mushrooms, beef broth, tiny potatoes, stew beef, and crushed tomatoes. I seasoned the stew with rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and sage.
The prep today consists basically of thickly slicing a small onion and chopping those tiny potatoes in half.  If you have regular sized carrots you can cut those down, but we had baby carrots in the fridge.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of canola oil in a soup pot.  When the oil is hot, add the beef and season with salt and pepper.  When it's brown on all sides, remove the beef and set it aside on a plate.
Add the onions to the pot and cook 3-4 minutes, then add the mushrooms.  We're going for a little browning but nothing too serious.  I used a "gourmet mix" of mushrooms that had baby portobellos, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  Use whatever you've got around.
I like the depth beer brings to a dish like this.  This is a porter by Magic Hat, which happens to be one of my favorite brewers.  You can use the dark beer of your choice or beef broth if you're not into using alcohol.
You need about 3/4 c to deglaze the pan.
Pour in the beer and scrape the pan like the dickens to get all the yummy bits on the bottom.  Those yummy bits are also known as flavor.  Let it reduce by half before you move forward.
Seriously, you just add everything else to the pot now.  Carrots, potatoes, the tomatoes, beef broth, the browned beef goes back in, and your seasonings.  Oh there's bay leaf in this too.  Stir it up, cover, and let it simmer for about an hour.  Check the seasonings about 15 minutes from the end, just to be sure it's got enough salt, heat, etc.
It'll thicken up a bit and be totally delicious.
Now, you could definitely serve this over rice, but it's so hearty you don't really need anything else.  This is totally a do-it-when-you-get-home-from-work, throw together kind of dish.

Hearty Beef Stew (serves 4-6)

2 tbs canola oil
1.5 lbs stew beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small onion, thickly sliced
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
3/4 c dark beer (porter or stout is recommended)
1/3 lb baby carrots
20-25 (about 1/4 lb) small red potatoes, cut in half
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 c reduced sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne

  • Heat canola oil over medium heat in a stock pot.  Add beef and season with salt and pepper.  Brown on all sides then remove from the pot.  Set aside.
  • Add onion to the pot and saute 3-4 minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook another 7-9 minutes.  Deglaze pan with beer (or beef stock), scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen bits stuck to the bottom.  Reduce liquid by half.  Add carrots, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, and beef broth.  Stir and season with remaining ingredients.  Cover the pot and simmer on medium-low for an hour or until vegetables and beef are tender.  Adjust seasonings in the last 15 minutes of cooking.  Serve warm.

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