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Classic Beef Stew

This image courtesy of Colin Ericcson

When I was growing up, one of my favorite dishes was my mother’s beef stew. There was nothing fancy about it but the house always smelled wonderful while it was cooking. This is the stew I’ve tried to capture in this recipe. That said, even Mom’s stew can be improved upon with the addition of mushrooms cooked in Madeira or a dollop of Slow-Roasted Garlic (see Variations, below).

Serves6

Cooking MethodSlow Cooking

CostModerate

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free

EquipmentCrock Pot

MealDinner

Taste and TextureMeaty, Savory

Ingredients

  • Medium to large (3½ to 5 quart) slow cooker
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 30 mL
  • 2 lbs stewing beef, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes and patted dry 1 kg
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 5 mL
  • 1 tsp sea salt 5 mL
  • ½ tsp cracked black peppercorns 2 mL
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup dry red wine or additional beef stock 125 mL
  • 1 cup beef stock 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp Beef Demi-Glace (See Notes) 15 mL
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add beef, in batches, and brown, about 4 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

  2. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, sea salt, peppercorns and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping brown bits up from the bottom of the pan for 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add demi-glace.

  3. Transfer to stoneware and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours, until beef is very tender. Discard bay leaves. Just before serving, garnish liberally with parsley.

Variations

  1. Beef Stew with Madeira Mushrooms: In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter over medium-high heat. Add 12 oz (375 g) sliced button mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms release their liquid, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in ¼ cup (60 mL) Madeira or port wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes. Just before serving, stir into stew, then garnish with parsley.

  2. Beef Stew with Roasted Garlic: Mash 6 cloves roasted garlic and stir into stew before garnishing with parsley. If you don’t have time to roast your garlic in the slow cooker, another easy technique is to peel the cloves, remove the pith (the center part that often sprouts) then place the cloves on a piece of foil. Drizzle about ½ tsp (2 mL) extra virgin olive oil over the garlic, then fold up the foil to make a tight packet. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 20 minutes.

  3. Chicken or Beef Demi-Glace: Demi-glace is intensely flavored stock that has been reduced to state of concentration. It is useful for adding a burst of flavor to dishes. I always like to have some in my freezer. After making stock, I often transfer, about 2 cups (500 mL) of the finished product to a saucepan to make a portion of demi-glace. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until syrupy, about 1½ hours. Let cool then transfer to a shallow dish and refrigerate. After it has solidified, lift it out in 1 piece, place on a cutting board, then cut it into squares (each containing a volume of about 1 tbsp/15 mL). (You should get about 8 pieces.) Wrap individually in plastic and freeze. When frozen, place in resealable bags and label.

Tips

If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (2 to 3 quart) slow cooker.

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FYI: "stewing beef" refers to chuck or round—tough cuts that become tender and flavorful when cubed and simmered.

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