LOS ANGELES, January 21, 2014 – When the cold wind pierces through your clothing and makes tears well-up in your eyes, it’s hard to beat a braised beef stew for dinner. It fills you up, warms you up and makes hunkering down for a long winter’s night a pleasure.
Stews are hearty and full of nutritious ingredients cooked slowly over a long period of time to allow all of the rich flavors to marry.
Another benefit of beef stew is that is one of the most economical dishes to prepare. Stews are a mix of cheap cuts of meat, root vegetables, dried herbs and spices and good stock. For less than $12 you can feed a family of four.
Here are few tips for ensuring a good stew becomes a great stew:
Brown the meat well to give it a deep, rich flavor and seal in the juices. That way, the slow cooking will break down a tough cut of beef like the chuck and make it fork tender.
Add the tomato paste to the already browned vegetables and cook the mixture down until the red disappears. The entire mixture should be brown, indicating that you have cooked it well enough to eliminate the acidic tomato flavor. Plus, this will make a more complex liquid base for the stew.
Cook the stew at a low temperature to retain as much liquid as possible. This will allow everything to cook slowly together and prevent the vegetables from falling apart.
Here’s an original recipe I created it a few years ago when I was trying to come up with something fun to make with a dark beer around St. Patrick’s Day. The dark lager has a deep earthy flavor.
Technically, this is considered a braised meat rather than a stew because it is cooked in the oven, but because the meat is shredded and there is still quite a bit of liquid I like to call it a stew and this goes great over polenta, curly pasta or a rice pilaf.
Beer Braised Oven Beef Stew
Serves: 4 Times: 4 hours Temperature: 325 degrees
2 lbs Beef chuck filets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter unsalted
1 ½ leeks diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Creole seasonings
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 dark beer
2 ea Better than Bouillon chicken cubes
2 1/4 cups of water
Sprinkle the Creole seasonings (this gives the dish a bit of heat), salt and pepper over the beef. In a pan with a little bit of olive oil sear the beef until it’s golden brown on both sides and then remove it from the pan.
Next in the same sauté pan add butter, and the remaining olive oil then sauté the carrots and then add and cook the leeks. Sprinkle them with salt. Both carrots and leeks should be golden brown.
Once the leeks and carrots are golden brown add the tomato paste and cook it down until it’s covering all of the carrots and leek. Turn the heat down to low (or off) and add the dark lager to the pan to remove the fond (dark bits on the bottom of the pan). Reduce by half and add the Better than Bouillon cubes (found where stocks are located in the grocery store usually on the top shelf) and water. Then add the beef back to the pan. Bring everything to a boil and then pour everything into a baking dish. Cover with parchment then foil or better yet a lid and braise for 2 ½ hours.
Once the beef is fork tender shred into to desired consistency. Serve with creamy polenta and top with rough chopped parsley.