Classic Beef Stew
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.
Serves 6 to 8
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.
Serve with Garlic-Infused Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root
nutrition information (per serving):
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 63
, pp. 37
February 2, 2004