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Jan 28, 2013 02:37 PM

Seeking Your Best Recipe for Beef Stew

I have made beef stew for years, but it has never been my favorite. My granddaughter has now moved in with me and loves beef stew (but not mine). Therefore, I am seeking your very best beef stew recipes in the hopes that I can make beef stews that will be good for both of us.


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  1. I made this
    Catalan-Style Beef Stew last night and it was terrific. There's a long cooking time for the onions but you save the time of browning the meat on the stove top so it almost evens out. Served it with boiled potatoes, though I think either mashed potatoes or rice would be even better. http://madeleinesmadeleines.bangordai...

    5 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      This is an old Roy de Groot recipie from Feast for All Seasons cookbook, now out of print, so I think it's ok to share it. It is for Greek Beef Stefado. The recipe is for 8 and you may halve it or freeze 1/2 of it before you add the feta cheese and pecans. It calls for top round of beef, 4 lbs, cut into 1 inch cubes, 4 lbs of small white boiling onions peeled, 1/2 pound of shelled pecans, 1/2 lb of feta cheese (cut into cubes), 1 can (2 lb 3 oz) of italian peeled and seeded plum tomatoes, 6 cloves garlic, 3 or 4 cloves, 3 bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste, i can tomato paste, two cups of red wine, 3 tablespoons of tarragon white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
      Mix 2 cups of the canned tomatoes, 6 ounces of tomato paste, 3/4 cup of red wine, 2 tblspoons of vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, in food processor till blended.
      Using a cast iron cocotte or dutch oven that can go from the top of the stove to the oven, Brown the room-temperature beef in olive oil in the cocotte, remove to bowl. Brown the onions and add each batch to the browned meat. Reduce the heat under the cocotte and add the meat and onion back in the pot, with crumbled bay leaves and crushed garlic cloves. Add the blended tomatoe sauce. As soon as the pot bubbles, turn the heat down to low simmer level, cover, and simmer approximately 3 hours. Heat must be low and you can add additional blended tomato/wine sauce if it appears to be drying. The sauce should be quite thick. The dish can be made ahead until this step and finished as follows. Heat oven to 350. Thirty minutes before serving, blend shelled whole pecans into stew with a wooden spoon and put in oven. 10 minutes before serving, stir in feta cheese. Serve over ourzo, rice, or small pasta

      1. re: escondido123

        My coworker made the Catalan recipe over the weekend and liked it ok.

        She is bringing some in for me tomorrow to sample.

        I am very skeptical of any stew recipe that doesn't call for browning the meat, since the Maillard reaction is such a huge flavor generator.

        1. re: C. Hamster

          I felt the same way, but when it is in the oven and the liquid goes only half way up, the meat above the surface browns very well. So you "turn" it a few times and the meat get very nicely browned. Combined with the well browned onions it is quite an amazing flavor.

          1. re: escondido123

            That's exactly what she said, but I'm still skeptical. It's hard to brown wet meat (ie, after turning).

            But I'll get a chance to taste it tomorrow!

            1. re: escondido123

              I am actually eating it right now (she did bring it in but I forgot about it)

              Its good but it absolutely suffers from the lack of umami that carmelized meat brings to a stew.

            1. re: Uncle Bob

              Neither of us are crazy about it. It seems bland. Has potatoes, carrots, onions and the "gravy" doesn't have much flavor.

              1. re: Wtg2Retire

                Browning is REALLY important. Fling anything near you into a hot pan (except perhaps offspring and pets), brown it and add it to your stew. I'm thinking carrots, onions, leeks, mushrooms, garlic.

                And don't be shy about salt. Tomato paste can add a lot of savory flavor, and many of us add a bit of fish sauce (equally salty but loaded with umami) quietly when no one is looking.

                Let us know how things turn out.

            2. Mine's about as basic as it gets, but we like it simple (and just finished a big pot of it the other night). :)

              Trim the stew meat of all fat, silver-skin and gristle-y bits. I cut it up to about 1 inch squares--you may chose to make biger pieces or smaller, but the cooking time will change. Heat up enough oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan. Flour your meat and give it a good, dark browning all over without burning the flour residue in the pan. Don't overcrowd the pan--you don't want to lower the heat too much and have it stewing away (yet).

              When the meat's all done, it goes into a heavy, enameled cast iron pot (like a Le Creuset, but less pricey). Add flour to the oil in the pan and brown it, cooking it for a minute. Add sufficient hot water all at once (to prevent lumps) to make enough gravy to cover the meat. Let it bubble away for a minute. Pour it over the meat. Add salt, pepper, and finely chopped onion to taste. I also throw in a bay leaf or two, depending on size. Reduce the heat and let that do a slow bubble for about 3 hours.

              Once the meat is fall-apart-tender, peel and cut up your carrots and potatoes and chuck them in. If you don't think there's enough gravy to give everything a good dampening, remove the meat and set aside while the veggies cook. Once the veg is done to your liking, fish out the bay leaves (if you didn't remove them when you took out the meat) and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Add your meat back in if you removed it and get it all reheated. Serve it up with crusty bread--I'll have butter on mine. :)

              1. I love the Vintage Victuals Guinness beef stew. It has become my go to whenever the craving hits. Their website recently crashed and is in the process of being restored. I found this link and it looks as if they used the recipe to the letter.


                7 Replies
                1. re: foodieX2

                  Depending on the age of the granddaughter, any stew with wine or Guinnes my be out.

                    1. re: MidwesternerTT

                      I don't remember the exact percentage but most if not all of the alcohol cooks out of it making it “safe” for children. On top that there would barely even be a shot glass worth of it in a single serving.

                      1. re: foodieX2

                        It never cooks off entirely but certainly only a very small amount would be left.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Good to know. I've been giving my children my beef stew with wine in it since they were little and they've had no ill effects. When serving teetotalers and recovering alcholics, I always warn them about any wine in the food, but I've never had anyone turn it down because of that.

                          1. re: Isolda

                            the longer it cooks the more the alcohol dissipates, but it's like half-lives with radiation, it never completely disappears.

                      2. re: MidwesternerTT

                        Half of my Mom's recipes when we were kids involved sherry added at the last minute. We loved those meals!

                    2. People have different ideas of what beef stew is. What are you looking for? Do you want all-American midwestern beef, carrots, and potatoes in gravy, or are you looking for something with wine and mushrooms and herbs?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: sandylc

                        I think the problem with my stew is that is just doesn't have much flavor. It does have carrots, potatoes, and onions, but the gravy seems very thin and flavorless. I love mushrooms, but my granddaughter does not, so if you want to post a recipe with mushrooms that will be fine - I will just leave them out.

                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                          More wine, more herbs, more paprika, more garlic. Toss in a couple of tablespoons of Montreal Steak Seasoning. Brown your meat well.

                          But stew flavor is a deep rich subtle flavor, it's not going to slap you in the face like Mexican or Thai.

                          Thin gravy is easy to fix, just thicken it using flour or cornstarch, I even know one 'lazy cook' who dumps a can of cream of mushroom soup in to thicken his stew. In your case maybe cream of broccoli or asparagus. (I can hear chowhounds gasping in shock and disgust.)

                          I made stew earlier this week and a friend wanted to know what I put in it, here is what I sent him (the instructions are for someone who doesn't cook much) :

                          I learned to make this from my mom and my grandmother, and they from my grandmother's mother. I've modified it a bit over the years as well. There are only two rules for this, one is that there is no tomato. The second is that there is always paprika. This recipe is for a large crock pot.

                          4-6 pounds chuck roast cut into bite sized pieces, trim excess fat.
                          2-4 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
                          1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced or chopped
                          1 bag frozen pearl onions
                          4 celery stalks sliced thin and/or 1-2 chopped green bell peppers
                          1 bottle red wine (pinot noir, zinfandel, not cabernet)
                          2-4 cloves garlic, chopped or left whole
                          3 tablespoons 'better than bouillon" (chicken or vegetable)
                          2-4 bay leaves
                          2 tablespoons herbs of choice (fines herbs works ok)
                          2-4 dashes Worchesteshire sauce
                          1-2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
                          3-5 pounds baby wax potatoes (red, purple, mixed, whatever)
                          Water to cover ingredients
                          Salt and Pepper to taste
                          2 tablespoons flour for thickening after skimming fat
                          1 pound baby carrots or regular carrots chopped into pieces

                          In a large skillet brown the beef in the oil or fat in at least two batches, do not crowd pan or meat will steam instead of sear. Don't burn the meat, but you want a nice dark color, not just barely browned. Remove beef to crock pot or dutch oven. Repeat until all meat is cooked. If liquid collects in the pan, pour it off into the crock pot.

                          Brown sliced onion and celery or green peppers in a similar way, and add to crock pot.

                          Add red wine and turn crock pot to high. Add remaining ingredients except for carrots, salt, pepper and flour. Add water to just cover the intredients and mix everything once and cover pot. Leave crock pot on high for about 2 hours or low for 4 hours, enough time to bring it up to temperature and cook the potatoes.

                          For the herbs you can use pre-packaged 'fine herbs', or your choice of things like parsley, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil. I don't usually use 'italian herbs' for this as the oregano tends to overpower.

                          Once the potatoes have cooked (test one with a fork) skim fat from surface of the liquid.
                          Salt and pepper to taste, possibly adjust remaining seasonings.

                          Mix flour with enough water to form a paste and mix until lumps are gone, add a bit more water to thin it enough to pour and add to hot liquid in pot.

                          Turn crock pot to 'warm' setting and add carrots. Carrots may be added earlier, but they tend to overcook. Cover and Allow to simmer for as long as 24 hours.

                          1. re: Wtg2Retire

                            A few tips:
                            1) Marinate your cubed beef in a combination of soy sauce, garlic and pepper and maybe a touch of lemon (so long as you are not deglazing your pan with wine). You will add savoriness to the stew and help along caramelization when you brown your beef.
                            2) Slow cook the onions until reddish brown. Caramelize the tomato paste towards the end of cooking the onions if you are using it.
                            3) A couple cloves add character to the braising liquid.
                            3) Finish the sauce by whisking beurre manié into the liquid and cooking until the sauce is thickened and glossy.

                            1. re: JungMann

                              Good tips above.
                              Here's my basic recipe -
                              Flour, salt and pepper your meat, brown on all sides in some oil, and take it out. If the pot is dry when you pull the meat, deglaze with a little wine.

                              Saute diced onion, celery, carrot until just softened. Add garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, bay leaves - saute a minute more.

                              Add the meat back, add equal parts wine, water, stock (in any combination).
                              Simmer low and slow for as long as you can, until you start to get that rich gravy and you can starting breaking up the meat with a fork.

                              If you want potatoes, carrots, any other veggies, throw those in once you start to get that gravy.

                              Not getting the gravy? Cook it longer, without the lid, until it reduces.

                              Can also add:

                              Tomato paste as a thickener
                              Flour / corn starch as mentioned above
                              A parmesan rind at the add-back stage
                              If you want to go crazy, through in a couple of anchovies or a few chili flakes before the sauteed veggies.

                              That's what I do anyway.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                Do you flour the meat for its thickening quality?

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I thought the reason for the flour was to help seal in the juices and get a better crust.

                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    Searing meat never really "seals in the juices." The sound of the meat sizzling in the pan is the sound of moisture loss in hot oil. Too much flour can even prevent the meat itself from browning, which prevents the Maillard reaction often mistaken as a moisture lock. Dredging meat in a light coating of seasoned flour, however, does create a flavorsome crust and contributes to thickening the braising liquid in the end.

                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      I said downstream that I never flour the meat because you end up browning the flour and not the meat. I brown the meat and then sprinkle on flour.

                                      The reason for the flour is as a thickening agent.

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    I have browned the meat, but not floured it. I seem to recall my Mom flouring the meat; I thought it was just extra calories, so did not flour. Will flour now and see if that helps. Thanks.