Comfort in a Bowl

Beef stew warms your bones and lifts your spirits on cold winter days.

Beef Stew
By Annemarie Ahearn

From our January 2015 issue.

As I stand at the stove in my thickest sweater, with the dogs at my feet, the words of the illustrious food writer M. F. K. Fisher drift through my mind: “It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”

This is why we make stew in the quiet darkness of January nights. It is an emotional act. It calls for a bit of forethought, as a stew cannot be rushed. It requires a touch of practiced culinary technique and a desire to be and eat with others. A savory medicine of sorts, a good stew is the remedy for our winter blues.

Traditional Beef Stew

Serves 8–10

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds stew beef (shoulder
or rump), cut into 1½-inch

kosher salt

flour for dredging

2 large onions, diced

6 carrots, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

bundle of herbs tied up in string
(2 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs rosemary,
2 sprigs thyme)

a few black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper
to taste

6–8 medium yellow potatoes, peeled

4 cups beef stock

4 cups water

1 cup blanched fresh peas
or frozen green peas

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

crusty bread and a wedge of
Stilton cheese

Beef Stew
Traditional Beef Stew

In a large Dutch oven or stewpot, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Dry the beef and sprinkle with kosher salt on every side. Dredge beef in flour, tapping off excess flour, and sear each piece until golden brown on each side, making sure not to crowd the pan. When done, transfer to a resting place. Turn the heat down to medium. Sweat the onions and the carrots with a touch of salt until soft and transparent. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables start to gain a touch of color. Add the tomato paste and mush it into the vegetables. Cook for 2–3 minutes or until it begins to gain color. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate. Return the meat to the pot, add the herbs, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt, pepper, potatoes, stock, and water, not quite covering the beef. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 1 hour and 45 minutes or move to a 325-degree oven and cook for 2 hours with the cover just barely open, allowing liquid to evaporate and stew to thicken. Taste and season. Discard the herb bundle. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes, just to heat them through. To finish the stew, swirl the butter into the sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot with a crusty loaf of bread and a fat wedge of Stilton cheese.

Note: Many cuts of meat make for a tasty stew. Ask your local butcher what she’s got that has some nice fat marbling. If permitted a few hours on the stovetop, any cut — whether short ribs, shank, round, or shoulder — will melt in your mouth.

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Photos by Mark Fleming