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Beef, Barley, and Butternut Squash Stew with Blue Cheese Croutons

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Serves 6

  • by Liz Pearson from Fine Cooking
    Issue 107

Cool nights call for a warming, satisfying stew. Top this one with the salty blue cheese and walnut croutons, breaking them up into the stew as you eat.

  • 1-3/4 lb. boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter (1-1/2 Tbs. softened)
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1-1/2 lb.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3-1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped walnuts
  • 18 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Season the beef with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and then toss in a large bowl with 2 Tbs. of the flour. Heat 1 Tbs. of the butter and the oil in a 5-1/2- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook half of the beef until browned on several sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until evaporated, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. flour and cook for 1 minute.

Whisk in 5 cups of the broth. Stir in the barley, bay leaves, sage, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the beef along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot snugly with foil and then a tight-fitting lid and braise in the oven until the beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the squash and the remaining 1 cup broth. Cover with the foil and lid and continue braising until the beef and squash are very tender, about 30 minutes more. Remove and discard the bay leaves from the stew, and then stir in the parsley and half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot.

In a small bowl, combine the softened 1-1/2 Tbs. butter with the blue cheese, walnuts, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Spread the mixture evenly onto the baguette slices. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Position a rack about 8 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Broil the croutons until deep golden-brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the stew with the croutons.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Arugula, Carrot & Celery Root Salad with Almonds and rustic bread for sopping up the stew.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 690; Fat (g): 36; Fat Calories (kcal): 320; Saturated Fat (g): 16; Protein (g): 34; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13; Carbohydrates (g): 54; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 750; Cholesterol (mg): 95; Fiber (g): 9;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Very good! Made pretty close to recipe. Didn't have fresh parsley and sage so used dried. Also used half chicken and half beef broth. My husband won't eat walnuts so used pecans for the toast which I loved! Great accent to the stew!! Oh ya! Totally forgot the cream! Next time I would try, although I didn't feel like the stew was lacking!

Fabulous recipe. I also used beef stock instead of chicken, and omitted the half-and-half and the baguettes. Totally unnecessary. This was a huge hit.

I have made this so many times that I likely don't need a written recipe. This is my all time favorite stew! I love the juxtaposition of flavors and consistencies. I double it and freeze as much as I can to continue enjoying. Freezes beautifully.

Excellent! Definitely a keeper. My husband, son and I loved it. I cooked this in a slower oven for a longer amount of time, the meat was incredibly tender; used quick cooking Barley and added it about 10 min. before we were ready to eat. I only used 1 stalk of celery and added a bunch of celery leaves. Great flavor. Didn't make the croutons, maybe next time. There will definitely be a next time!

Made this the other night great, flavorful,and it gets the house to smelling like I want some of what ever is cooking.

Great dish. We used mushrooms ( added during the same step as the carrots), skipped the squash and croutons. This is super flavorful. We used beef broth instead of chicken. We added the half and half but it might be good without it too - the soup looked amazing before we added it so curious how it would haved tasted w/o. Don't get me wrong though - great dish. We will make again for sure.

Made this stew and loved it. I didn't have barley so I had to leave it out. Next time I'll make sure I have it, Turned out great anyway. Will put this recipe on my comfort food short list.

Amazing meal for a fall or winters night. Didn't change a thing except that I roasted my butternut squash before adding because I like the texture better and think it has a richer flavor. And leave out the croutons. Good but they don't add anything to the meal either way.

Prepared this tonight, making some substitutions to use what I had on hand - Delicious! Will be interesting to see how different it will taste when prepared as listed.

Yes, prep time can be a bit long, but well worth it. I have made it many times as written and it is always great! This time I substituted beef broth for chicken and Guinness beer for the wine. It is cooking as I write and smells absolutely amazing!! I don't think it needs the croutons and have never made them to accompany the stew.

Soul-satisfying! This is the stew to make when the cold is coming on, and you need warmth and comfort to hunker down. I made the recipe as written, but skipped the croutons. It came out perfect! It took a little bit of extra time -- maybe 30-40 min of active time -- but it was well worth it on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

Pretty good. There was a lot of prep work to it, and I was in a rush so I had to raise the temp and cook for a shorter period of time, so the meat was not as tender as I would have liked. Boyfriend and his roommates LOVED it - but they said there was too much squash and I would agree. The squash kind of took over. I also agree with the reviewer who said there is room for mushrooms in here - that was my thought exactly! I will probably replace half the squash with mushrooms next time. But overall, very easy and delicious dish. Although... my stew was NOT brown like the picture. Hello, it's all chicken broth, flour, and cream, so it is going to be yellow. Just a heads up!

This recipe was time consuming with quite a few steps but. . . . this stew was so rich and so creamy, and the flavors? Delicious! I too added some yukon potatoes (house not full of squash lovers!) and found I had no barley when it came time to make but simply excluded the parley and made little pasta on the side. The croutons were delicious but also not really necessary. I think there is a place for mushrooms in here, too! Really, a great recipe.

Great recipe and easy to make. I did make a few modifications though so this is what my review is based on. I didn't add the half and half or fresh parsley (I did add some dried parsley) because I didn't have any. However, it was fine without it so I don't think it's necessary. Also, instead of chicken broth I used 2 cups beef broth and 5 cups vegetable broth. There's something about chicken broth in beef stew that didn't seem the best choice. I used 1 extra cup of broth since it seemed a bit thick. The blue cheese crouton, while not necessary, were excellent with the soup. We ended up eating them more as a side than in the soup. Overall, a very tasty and hearty soup with lots of flavor and perfect for a cold winter day. I will be making this one again.

A new paradigm, with 1 1/4 lb. of chuck serving 6. Terrific recipe. I might use dill instead of parsley, the blue cheese croutons didn't seem integral, but they were mighty tasty. Maybe mushrooms would find a home here, even some dried porcini. Great flavored dish. Could it survive some starch variation?

Wonderful! Made as written, except for the croutons...we just served with a fresh baguette & crumbled some blue cheese on top...mmm. I made it the night before but didn't have any trouble with expanding barley like another reviewer; I think the flavor improved overnight too. I think this will become my new favorite go-to stew recipe; the squash was a nice change from potatoes and I really enjoyed the barley too. Filling & healthy; great comfort food.

I had some of this stew in the freezer and we had it last night as the temperature dipped below freezing. Just as delicious the second time around. It's hearty comfort food, elevated to guest status by the blue cheese croutons. A family favourite.

Delicious! I followed the recipe exactly but did add one small diced yukon gold potato when I added the butternut squash (husband request). It had an excellent, hearty taste and I'll definitely make again. Great winter stew!

Wonderful flavor. Several problems, made a day ahead and the barley expanded and consumed the liquid. It was barley soup with a touch of beef and squash. Am trying again today - will not flour the meat, nor add flour to the vegetables. Am thinking of cooking the barley separately and serving the stew over it. Wll thicken the stew at the end if needed.

We made the croutons but my husband felt that the stew held its own and we didn't need them (I really liked them). A great recipe!

This is a really good recipe. We didn't make the croutons (we ate with fresh baguette instead). Flavors and texture are excellent.

Wonderful. Didn't try the croutons as we made fresh bread to go with instead, but the stew was great!

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