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My mother makes bland stew and apparently I do too...

  • b

What is the deal with that? I've put everything I can think of in varying (sometimes excessive) quantities into my stews and I always come up with the same blah result. I know its just beef stew, but I want to put a nice hot spoonful in my mouth and go, "ahhhhhh" not "blah"

Everything else I make tastes good, why not my stew?!??? Do other people secretly do something I'm missing? I've searched recipe upon recipe and keep falling short. Maybe I'll give up. Except stew = cheap and it is fairly pracitcal to make in my 6X8 kitchen. Yeah, you read that right, 6X8.

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  1. I found that many times when I would make something that should be bursting with flavor, it doesn't because I always seem to under salt things.

    1. c
      Caitlin Wheeler

      The salt tip is a good one. Also, I find that the only good beef stew recipes have copious amounts of red wine in them -- do you make wine based stews? Or water/broth?

      1. it could come down to technique more than ingredients .... ie: what you do with your ingredients, not necessarily what ingredients you use. outwardly a stew can seem simple but .... in chinese cooking the meat is briefly blanched to clean it up and to remove some of the "scum" that will muddy up the stew....then the meat gets a good sear, vegetables (especially onions ) can also be seared/browned for additional flavor, spices can be sauteed briefly in oil to bloom them, then there is the liquid - water, wine,stock..... and as far as salting goes - season each component as you go - don't wait until the end....depending on what cut of meat you use....you may find that adding the vegetables near the end will result in better tasting/looking veggies than if you start with them and let them cook too long.....good luck

        6 Replies
        1. re: gordon wing

          Yes, agree w/ everything here. Gradual additions of salt and pepper are critical to a flavorful result. Of course, let's face it, fat also adds a lot of flavor. I usually use canola oil to sear the meat, but will add a generous pat of butter when the onions go in.

          I stew the meat w/ large chunks of celery, onion, and carrots for 2 to 2.5 hrs ideally--the longer, the better. Sometimes I'll add a couple of tomatoes. As far as liquids, I always add some alcohol (either red wine or beer) after the veggies go in and then beef stock or bouillion later if it needs additional beef flavor. Herbs: thyme, bay leaf, parsley. Potatoes go in during the last half hour so they don't get too mushy.

          1. re: Carb Lover

            Re: adding the vegetables last. My family always liked stew better the second day, when everything was cooked and broken down. They were more concerned with taste rather than what the veggies looked like.

            1. re: LBQT

              Veggie addition depends on the veggies. Beef cooks alone in the gravy for about three hours, in a Le Creuset Dutch oven in the oven at 250 degrees Farenheit.

              Onion and potato go in about an hour before the meat is done.

              Mushroom and carrot and celery and parsley go in about half an hour before the meat is done.

              Peas go in at the last minute.

              1. re: LBQT

                re: the vegetables - as is often the case, there is more than one way to go ..... one way is to go with the vegetables cooked until they break down and give themselves up to the stew - some vegetables work better than others for this - I personally love to cook potatoes until they dissolve (non waxy potatoes) and thicken the stew but vegetables can also be cooked until they're done and have given up some flavor to the stew and also still look bright & appetizing. hope I didn't say that I didn't care about taste.

                1. re: gordon wing

                  I'm sorry if my post sounded offensive - it certainly wasn't meant to - I know you're concerned with taste. At any rate, my "secret ingredient" is a can of peas, liquid and all. Learned that trick from my MIL, and my kids always loved it that way. They also thicken the stew the next day, in addition to adding flavor.

              2. re: Carb Lover

                I like to put in everything at the beginning, usually... but a favorite "spartan" beef stew recipe that was given to me by my butcher involves braising the (seared) beef in plenty of red wine for a few hours, then adding caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms at the very end.

            2. If you have "How to Eat", check out Nigella Lawson's recipe with anchovies in your beef stew. It really added some depth to the stew the last time I made it. I wrote about it on my blog, linked below, last month.

              Link: http://fogcity.blogs.com/jen/2004/10/...

              1 Reply
              1. re: jen maiser
                c
                Caitlin Wheeler

                That's one of my favorite recipes, too. I like that you brown the meat without having to flour it first -- the flour doesn't taste "raw" or lumpy and it's much easier this way.

              2. Two suggestions: one is to use a crockpot, I find it makes the meat in the stew very tender and concentrates the flavors. Second, think ethnic. I have pretty much decided curried beef stew, Greek Stifado, a sweet and sour beef stew, or a Hispanic stew using chili peppers works better for me than a traditional American/English version.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Coyote

                  Yes, I also like the hoisin and cabernet recipe from epicurious, and I recently made a vietnamese beef stew with star anise and lemon grass that was quite tasty.