A few weeks ago I posted my recipe for canning beef stew, but I realize many of you do not have the option or equipment to can your own stew. So I wanted to post for you my 'go to' beef stew recipe that I make in my trusty enamel ware cast iron dutch oven. Last week, I canned the last of our roast, and I have been waiting until we could find a good roast on sale before tackling this recipe. Fortunately, last week when we were looking at the comp ads we were able to find chuck roast on sale for $2.69/lb, regular price $5.69/lb that was 53% savings so off we went to Walmart for our bi-weekly shopping spree and we bought three roasts.
Trained in the French style of cooking, my beef stew recipe is based on the tried and true 'Beef Bourguignon' a classical French beef stew made with just a few ingredients. A true beef bourguignon is made primarily with, bacon, beef, carrots, baby onions, and mushrooms in a brown stock with red wine. I have made this dish countless number of times, but I take a more traditional American approach. That is to say, I use white or yellow onions diced and slightly caramelized instead of whole baby onions, and I add potatoes, and generally a few other vegetables depending on what I have in the refrigerator. I also usually omit the red wine, not because I do not like the flavor, but my wife does not care for beef stew made with red wine.
I use a dried shitake mushroom in my soups and stews for two primary reasons. The first being that they last forever because they are dried making them a pantry staple at our house. The second reason is that when re-hydrated they have good flavor and a nice firm texture that I enjoy. I purchase mine dried in large bags from the Asian market. Any type of mushrooms will work in this recipe, the most common type you will find here in the states at your local grocery store are button mushrooms. If you want the mushrooms to have more body or texture in the stew the quarter them or leave them whole otherwise slice or dice them however you wish.
The beef in this recipe is mixed with flour after browning and then heated in the over for a total of 8 minutes to help made a light roux that will add both flavor and some body to the stew while it cooks. It is an extra step that you might think to skip, but I assure you it definitely makes a difference in both the flavor and texture of the stew. This step also eliminates having to add a thickener later after the stew has cooked. While it may seem like there are a lot of steps, this recipe is really easy and it is minimalist pantry friendly.
Beef Bourguignon (Beef Stew)
2 - 3 lbs beef (cut into 2-inch cubes)
6 slices bacon (optional)
4 cups of water
4 dried shitake mushrooms (re-hydrated in one cup of hot water)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Yukon gold or red new potatoes
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon thyme leaves, dried
½ teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Trim the roast and cut into 2-inch cubes. Pat dry and place on a plate until ready to brown. Place the dried shitake mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water to re-hydrate. I use a small 'Hot Shot' to heat up the water, but you could use your microwave to heat the water.
Sauté bacon in your casserole dish until crispy, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels with a slotted spoon. While the bacon is draining, add your cubed beef to the casserole dish a little at a time and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the browned beef to a plate until all of it has been browned. While you are browning the beef, coarsely chop up the bacon as we are going to add it back to the casserole dish later.
Once all the beef has been browned and has been removed from the casserole dish, add the carrots and onions and saute until the onions are slightly browned and remove them from the casserole dish and set aside in a bowl or small plate.
Add the bacon, browned beef and any juices on the plate, salt, pepper and flour to the casserole dish and mix throughly. Place the casserole dish uncovered in your 450 degree heated oven for 4 minutes, then remove and stir the beef mixture and return to the oven to cook for 4 more minutes (a total of 8 minutes). While the beef is in the oven remove the mushrooms from the cup of water (save the water to add to the stew) and cut them into small pieces.
Remove the casserole dish from the oven and place on the stove. Reduce the heat in the oven to 325 degrees and add the remaining ingredients except the potatoes to the casserole dish and bring to boil. Once the stew has reached a boil, remove from the burner and place in the oven and cook for 2 hours at 325 degrees.
Chef's Note: At this point add any additional vegetables you would like. I sometimes add a drained can of corn or green beans, it just sort of depends on my mood, or what I have leftover in the refrigerator.
After the stew has cooked for two hours, remove the casserole dish from the oven and check the doneness of the meat. It should be tender and easily cut with a fork, the cooking time my vary slightly depending on the quality of the meat used. Cheaper cuts of beef may take longer, but generally 2 hours is sufficient to give you a nice tender texture. At this point add your potatoes and place the casserole dish back in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Chef's Note: Potatoes can be divided into two specific kinds boiling (Yukon Gold, New Red Potatoes, etc…) and baking potatoes (Russet). As their name implies boiling potatoes stay more firm when boiled as they have less starch in them are the preferred potato for for soups and stews. Baking potatoes have a higher starch content and are best for baking and making French fries, hash browns, and tator tots. Because of their high starch content they do not hold their shape or texture as well when boiled or stewed for more than 30 to 45 minutes. For this recipe I actually used russet potatoes as that was all I had, and cooking them for only 30 minutes keeps them from breaking down into the sauce and still gives them a slightly firm texture. Use the potatoes you have, just be aware of their limitations.
As I mentioned earlier, this is my go to beef stew recipe and it is really easy to make and it is minimalist pantry friendly. The great thing about stews is you can add any ingredients you like as long as you start out with a good base. That is the greatness about beef bourguignon is that even if you distill it down to the minimal ingredients of beef, onions, carrots, and brown stock you have essentially a blank canvas for a number of stew variations. Remember, this is your recipe, add what you and your family like and you will have a wonderful meal that all will enjoy. And if you can find and comp a chuck roast or comparable roast for like we did that is even better!
I believe the red wine adds both body and character to your stew, and if you have any on your shelf or in the fridge try using some. My choice would be a good burgundy, but any red wine will work for this stew. My only caveat would be that if you would not drink the red wine alone, then do not add it to your stew. If it is not good enough to drink, then it is not good enough to cook with. If using 2 lbs of meat then substitute 1 cup red wine for one cup of the water or both (if using powdered bouillon adjust accordingly), if using 3 lbs of meat, simply add the cup of red wine to the stew with the water.
I especially like to add a red wine if using venison in place of the beef when making this stew. I mention this as deer season is upon us, I know there are many of you will will be making venison stew this winter and red wine really brings out the character of the wild game. So I hope all your deer hunters will give this recipe a try the next time you make venison stew.
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