If it were to ever get cold in Texas this “winter,” I’d have started making this months ago and more often. But, alas… It’s going to be 70 degrees or warmer the next couple of days with no dip into the 30s for a while. Sometimes it’s hard to want to make stews and chilis when it isn’t cold outside. However, I took advantage of the amazing unseasonal weather we’ve been having and started cleaning up and prepping the back yard and vegetable patches last weekend. Some things we planted last year are somehow still going strong: chard, parsley… and rosemary. While the recipe that follows is headlined by beef (a favorite leading character), rosemary certainly deserves a nod as Best Supporting Ingredient. It doesn’t steal the spotlight, but brings a depth to the entire production that would be lacking if it were not there.
Hearty Beef Stew
What you’ll need:
Large frying pan or skillet
Large slow cooker
4 lbs grass fed chuck roast
1 lb carrots, ¼ inch slices on the bias
8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 lb turnips, peeled, ½ inch cubes
1 lb white onions, ½ - 1 inch “cubes”
2 cups beef stock
2 cans tomato paste (6 oz. each)
½ bottle (375 ml) red wine
3 sprigs rosemary, 3-4 inches each
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by cutting your chuck roast into roughly 1-2 inch cubed pieces. Why do I take the time to cut up a roast (as opposed to just buying what the meat counter advertises as “stew meat”)? The store cut stew meat can contain meat from a variety of different parts of the cow… and even more than one cow if you think about it. Ensuring your meat comes from one cut (and one cow) adds a layer of consistency to the dish that I take comfort in.
Lightly season your beef cubes with salt and pepper. With a drizzle of olive oil in the pan, brown the cubed beef in batches. The operative word there was “brown.” Overcrowd your pan with meat and you will only “grey” it, imbuing the dish with fewer flavors. Rush or skip this step, and you are cheating yourself and anybody else you are serving.
When the meat is sufficiently browned, transfer it to your slow cooker, and start the next batch of meat until the entire roast is browned. Add another drizzle of olive oil to your pan, then add the carrots and mushrooms. Lightly season them with salt and pepper, stirring the pan occasionally. When the edges of the carrots are just beginning to do the softening, transfer them to the slow cooker. Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan, and this time add the turnips and onions. Again, lightly season them with salt and pepper.
When the onions start to become shimmery and translucent, slowly pour the 2 cups of beef stock into your pan while scraping up all of the browned bits that have stuck to the bottom. This is known as deglazing… a French culinary technique that I translate to mean “getting every last bit of flavor out of the pan.” After you have deglazed the pan, pour the onions, turnips and stock into the slow cooker.
Add the two 6 oz. cans of tomato paste and a half bottle (375 ml) of red wine to the slow cooker. As for the red wine, I prefer an organic wine with no sulfites added… and one that doesn’t cost a fortune. Something cheap enough to use in cooking… but good enough to drink what isn’t used in the recipe. Lately, I have been using Badger Mountain’s 2010 NSA Pure Red in the 3L box. Did you just scoff at the idea of boxed wine? Get over yourself. At roughly $25/box, this is quality intersecting with value… probably the best red blend I’ve tried. In the Dallas area, I have found it at the Whole Foods on Park Lane. Spec’s told me they would be carrying it in the near future, as well. If you can’t find it (or don’t want to…), use whatever dry red wine you would like.
Stir everything in your slow cooker until the stew is mixed evenly. Lastly, bury your sprigs of rosemary throughout the dish, making sure they are fully submerged into the stew. Cover with the lid, set your slow cooker to “low” and let it cook for 10 hours. The needles will have fallen off the rosemary stems and incorporated into the stew. Stir around until you find the rosemary stems and remove (only) them.
Without adding any flour, starch or filler of any sort, your stew should have a fairly hearty “gravy” to it. And it measures out to about a 50/50 meat/veg ratio. If you don’t have a large slow cooker (or don’t have a demand for massive quantities of stew), you can easily halve this recipe. As listed above, this will prepare 8 sizable 16 oz. servings… or a little more than 10 manageable 12 oz servings.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hearty Beef Stew.