Thursday, November 7, 2013

OhFeelYa's Easy...Dinners--Beef and Root Veggie Stew

It's finally starting to get cold here, and my friend Stephanie asked me to come up with an easy week-night stew. So here we go!

As you know, my hubby is a meat and potatoes fellow. But I can only cook pork so many times in a row before I can't take it anymore. On our first cold weekend in Dallas, I thought a thick beef stew would be finally be appropriate.

You can use any combination of root vegetables here. As pictured, I used three large, red potatoes (I leave the skins on because Jay loves them), some turnips I had languishing in the veggie drawer, and a few carrots my daughter's rabbits will never miss. I also added a roughly chopped onion and three cloves of garlic. Like with the pork and potatoes, I don't worry about a beautiful display of knife skills on the veggies. You do want the pieces to be roughly the same size they cook at the same rate, and larger rather than smaller so they don't go to mush. 

I picked up a package of pre-cut beef (usually helpfully labeled "stew meat") from the grocery store. In a large bowl, I mixed about 3T of flour, salt and pepper to toss the beef in. You can add cayenne if you like it spicy or garlic salt if you enjoy that flavor (my family are all avid garlic salt devotees). Once you mix the dry ingredients, toss the beef in the flour to coat evenly.
Personally, I only like to crap up one pot/pan on my easy weeknight meals. So, I take my handy, medium-sized pot that is both stovetop and oven safe, put in 2-3 T of fat (bacon grease for my husband, but you can use any oil) over a medium heat until it gets hot. Dump in your beef, scoot it around so it's only one layer deep, and let it brown. Flip it and let it brown on the other side. Don't worry if it's sticking to the bottom; remember, that's where the flavor lives. Just don't let it burn.

Once your beef is browned on both sides, remove it to a bowl. Now deglaze the pot you're using (this just means to add liquid and scrape off all the stuck-on crunchy bits). I like to use wine, and I used red wine here. However, if you don't keep wine handy, you can use beef stock at this point. 

If you're not down to make your own stock from scratch, and who on earth is in the middle of the week, I recommend Better Than Bouillon. It's available at most grocery stores and comes in a variety of flavors like beef, chicken, veggie, and veal. It's a really thick paste that you mix with hot water. It's SO MUCH BETTER than that wretched canned beef stock, which tastes like tin and salt. It also keeps really well in the fridge.

Once your veggies are chopped, the beef is browned, and the pot or pan is deglazed, now you can add it all together. Add in a can of tomato sauce, enough beef broth to barely cover the beef and veggies, and salt and pepper to taste. Some thyme or rosemary are nice, maybe a bay leaf if you have one. Here's another trick: keep some instant coffee or a half cup leftover from your morning pot. This will add rich flavor to almost any beef dish with broth. Add in a teaspoon of instant if that's what you have, along with a splash of Worcestershire if you have some.
You're ready to cook! I cooked this at barely a simmer for about two hours. Add a lid about halfway through. (Letting steam escape in the first hour will thicken the stew and intensify the flavor). As soon as your beef and veggies are tender, it's done. Taste your broth periodically and adjust with salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worcestershire, and more instant coffee as needed until it tastes great to you! It may look a bit thin when it's really hot, but it will thicken as it cools.
Small bowl of Beef Stew with half an apple leftover from lunch. YUM!
The best thing about this recipe is that the prep is quick, and then you can just leave it to cook with occasional stirring and tasting. Very hearty, and plenty of leftovers! I got Jay a loaf of sourdough bread to eat with his stew, and it makes me feel so good when my family is eating something hearty and economical that is not overly processed.

And, just to show you all that I do actually eat all that I cook, I took a picture of my lunch I packed for work yesterday.
Curried Pumpkin Soup (from the pumpkin puree), sourdough bread, and some refrigerator pickles I made a few weeks ago. For me, this is a perfect light lunch for work when I don't want to get sleepy. 

The recipe for Beef Stew is after the jump...

Beef and Root Veggie Stew
  • One package beef "stew meat"
  • 3T fat/oil (not butter)
  • 3T flour
  • 4 cups (it can be a bit more or less, as you like) root veggies, roughly chopped. Any variety of potato (but probably not sweet potato), peeled or unpeeled as you like, turnip, carrot, parsnip, etc...
  • 1 onion (roughly chopped)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced, depending on how much garlic you like
  • one cup red wine (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
  • 4 cups beef broth (I like the Better than Bouillon paste, but if you don't get that, at least get some beef stock in a carton rather than in a can)
  • 1 16 oz can tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper
Optional for more flavor:
  • bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme or rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee (or you can throw in the leftover from your morning pot, about 1/2 cup)
  • 1T Worcestershire sauce
Roughly chop the veggies and onion, mince the garlic, and set aside. Mix flour, salt (you can use garlic salt) and pepper (1/2 teaspoon of each) in a large bowl. Toss beef in the flour mix until it's well coated. Put 3T of oil in a pot over medium heat. When it's hot, brown the beef (try to get it in one layer so all the beef is touching the bottom), flip when it's brown, and brown the other side. Watch carefully, especially on the second side, so it doesn't burn. Transfer the seared beef into a bowl; set aside. Use one cup red wine or bouillon stock to deglaze the pan (pour it in a scrape like mad until all the browned bits come loose). Add the beef back into the pot, add in the vegetables, the tomato sauce, and whatever you'd like to use from the optional list. Add beef stock until it almost covers the beef and vegetables. Barely simmer for around two hours until beef and vegetables are tender. Stir periodically, and taste to adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve with some rustic bread!