Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hearty Beef Stew

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
Olive oil
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.


  1. Hey, Andrew - it's rarebird from MDA. I've been meaning to ask you about being primal in Texas. I'm in Michigan half the year and in Texas the other half. I'm working on setting up the MI primal household and then I will be working on the TX household "going primal" when I am there next fall. It wasn't why we bought the house in MI, but I am sorta drifting into the classic snowbird pattern. Anyway, I wanted to know if I could pick your brain for resources for Texas primal living, including a primal version of Texas chili (or hearty beef stew - works for me! Yum!)

    1. What part of Texas are you set up in? I can speak most specifically about the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and a little about the Houston, Austin and B/CS areas. Let me know what you are looking for (community supported ag farmers, veg/dairy co-ops, stores, etc.) and I will let you know what I know... and try to dig up answers for anything I don't know yet.

  2. Well, aren't you sweet? Seriously! I hope that the time you invest helping me can be on a win/win/win basis - so that you benefit and that others may as well - even if in the future. Maybe a "Texas Primal" referral resource for your blog? I would be happy to contribute any resources that I find on my own as well.

    I'm in the Forest Country area roughly between Houston and Dallas. I visit both the Dallas and Houston areas from time to time. Initially, my focus would be on regional grass fed/pastured meat. We don't do dairy other than ghee - but pastured butter would be great. I will be looking closer to home for organic produce and eggs - and will probably resume my winter gardening there next winter. We grow great lettuce, greens, alliums, and cole crops there in the winter.

    Btw, I may have sufficient organic herbs to share on a limited basis once I get the garden there renovated. That's my goal anyway. I also have an organic California bay tree in my yard that produces plenty of culinary bay leaf, if you would be interested.

    Really, any suggestions that you care to make are appreciated :-).

  3. On further thought, maybe "sweet" wouldn't be a descriptor that you'd be comfortable with. "Generous", definitely!