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Classic Beef Stew


Serves 6 to 8

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 63

What makes this traditional beef stew a little different is the way it’s cooked. Instead of the gentle heat often associated with braises, a very hot oven cooks the meat more quickly yet still delivers rich, succulent results. The key to the success of this stew is to keep the meat moist using a heavy-based pot with a tight-fitting lid made with heavy-duty foil.

  • 3 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil; more as needed
  • 3 lb. boneless beef chuck
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large or 3 medium onions, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine 
  • 3 cups mixed carrots (peeled and cut into bite-size pieces) and turnips (peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1/2 lb. small red or new potatoes, halved if large, parboiled in salted water until tender (optional) 
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Adjust a rack to the lower middle (but not the bottom) of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels, trim away any thick pieces of fat, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-based Dutch oven that’s 9 to 10 inches in diameter. As soon as the oil is very hot, add a quarter of the beef cubes, taking care not to crowd the pan. Sear the beef until two sides form an impressive dark-brown crust, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the beef to a bowl and continue to sear the remaining beef in batches, adding more oil to the pan if needed. It’s fine for the pan bottom to darken, but if it smells like it’s burning, lower the heat just a little. Set all the seared beef aside in a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic to the empty pot, adding another 1 Tbs. oil if the pan is dry. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the bay leaves and thyme and continue to cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the flour and then the red wine and 2 cups water. Return the beef and any accumulated juices back into the pot.

Lay a large sheet of heavy-duty foil over the pot and, using a potholder or a thick towel, press it down in the center so that it almost touches the stew. Crimp the foil around the pot’s rim for a tight seal. Cover snugly with the pot’s lid. Turn the burner to medium high until you hear the juices bubble. Put the pot in the oven and cook for 1 hour. Check the stew: If the meat is fork-tender, it’s done; if not, cook for another 15 minutes, adding a little more water to the pan if it looks dry.
Meanwhile, in a separate large sauté pan, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Sauté the carrots and turnips over medium heat until just tender, about 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can steam the vegetables.) Add the potatoes (if using) and brown them lightly. Add the thawed peas and cook until warmed through.

Remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the foil, and stir in the cooked vege­tables. Remembering that the pot and lid are hot, cover again with the foil and the lid. Let stand so that the meat rests and the vegetables marry with the stew, about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, the stew juices might need thinning to achieve a thin gravy texture. If so, stir in water—1/4 cup at a time—as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently reheat, if necessary, and serve garnished with the parsley.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Garlic-Infused Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 480, Fat (kcal): 28, Fat Calories (g): 250, Saturated Fat (g): 10, Protein (g): 34, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14, Carbohydrates (mg): 15, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 700, Cholesterol (g): 110, Fiber (g): 4,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Love this recipe, and its so easy to prepare! I added extra veggies.

Made recipe as written and it was delicious. Next time I will add more potatoes, carrots and turnips. I love the way they are cooked separately, then added at the end to marry with the meat flavors after the pot is out of the oven. I agree with less searing time for the meat. It took about 8 minutes to brown at first, but I was able to cut this down to about 6 minutes by the time I got to the last couple of batches.

This was so... good!!! Definitely a keeper! I cooked per directions, but added some cabbage and fresh corn to the mix. Yummm.....

Like all the reviews that preceded this, truly a wonderful recipe! I made it, as I always do, following the stated recipe exactly to start. I'm not that good a cook to ad lib. This filled the house with savory aromas on a cold, windy, February day. Thanks to Pamela for some great comfort food, nicely done!

This is one of my husband's favorite dishes. I use some of the options from the magazine version of this recipe, such as paprika and a tiny bit of ground clove. I sub in turnips or rutabaga instead of potatoes sometimes and omit the peas. I love the fast-cooking version because I don't have to be in the house all day to nurse it. I cook the vegetables separately by steaming them. FC notes in other stew recipes that they're better the second day, and while we rarely wait that long for our first bowl, it is better the second day.

I've made this a few times and it is always amazing. I don't usually cook beef but this is so good I make an exception. The browning takes some time and makes a bit of mess but it's worth it, and the rest of it is not much effort at all. I add the vegetables in with the meat and I think that works perfectly- they retain their shape but they're still nicely tender. (The peas should be added at the end though, so they keep their bright green color.) If the beef seemed "overcooked" (tough), that would be because it didn't cook for long enough; that's how braising works. Shortening the browning time would not help that, it would just mean you wouldn't develop as much flavor.

The stew has a great flavour and is easy to make. Next time we would sear the beef less than 8-10 minutes as it was overcooked.

Tonight is my second time making this recipe. The first time I used large 3" inch cubes of grass fed beef for slightly different presentation. Using the 1 hr 15 min cooking time the beef was perfectly fork tender, moist, and delicious. The slightly browned carrots add wonderful depth. Tonight I'm making it with a mix of carrots and parsnips for color variation! Highly recommend this for a slow food night.

The best beef stew I ever made! I added mushrooms and subbed parsnips for the turnips. A wonderful deep flavor. Will make again and again!

Big hit here. I omitted potatoes and added green beans and black-eyed peas instead. It was great and gone quickly.

Loved this recipe. The gravy was amazing, but my favourite part was how the vegetables retained their individual flavours and texture instead of the turning into the usual stew-flavoured soft-textured bites. Next time I will start the carrots cooking a bit before adding the other vegetables; at the size I like them they didn't cook evenly with the turnips (and parsnips that I added).

Well, lacking the necessary cooking utensils, I made this one on the stove instead of in the oven. I also was forced to use powdered thyme (1 t.) instead of the thyme leaves (gasp), replaced the peas with green beans, and the potatoes with mashed potatoes served alongside, and added 8 oz sauteed, quartered mini portabella mushrooms. I used a meritage from robert mondavi as well. The end result was wonderful, especially with the mashed potatoes as a foil (I hate that word but I MUST use it) and a glass of the OK red to resonate the flavor of the stew. It fit the bill for an easy to throw together, somewhat inexpensive (no exotic ingredients), comfy casual indulgence. I would definitely recommend it.

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