Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

With a few common ingredients and a little prep time, you can create a hearty, comforting stew that will make everyone at the table feel right at home. I like to make this the night before or early in the morning and then put it into the crock pot to cook all day. Your house will be filled with a savory aroma that will call your family to the dinner table right on time! It's a humble stew, not much to look at, but delicious nonetheless.

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

1 1/3 lb. stew beef
2 T. olive oil
1 large chopped onion
1 tsp. chopped garlic
a little sprinkle of both salt and fresh ground pepper
1 T. A-1 Steak Sauce (deepens the color)
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 can beef consomme'
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh)
1/3 cup + 2 T. flour, divided use
1/2 c. dry red wine
3 1/2 c. water
3 T. tomato paste
1 c. sliced carrots
3 large all purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed
1+ tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 c. halved mushrooms + 1 tsp. butter (optional)

Cut your beef into 1 to 1 1/2" cubes, removing any excess fatty bits. In a dutch oven, heat your olive oil over medium high heat, and add beef, stirring to sear on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper (it's important to season as you go along, it helps develop the flavors).

When the beef is browned, add the onion and the garlic, and continue to stir until the onion starts to soften. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the A-1 and then 1/3 c. of flour, making sure all of the flour gets incorporated into the beef mixture (that means no white shows). Let this brown for a few minutes, and add the consomme', water, wine, bay leaf and tomato paste. Stir well and bring this to a boil. Stir in the thyme, carrots and potatoes. Season the stew with the remaining salt and pepper.

At this point, you have several options. You can put the stew into a crock pot, and leave it to simmer for 8 hours. OR you can finish the stew in the oven, set at 325 degrees for 3 hours. OR you can let it simmer on low heat on the stove for 2 - 3 hours. If you opt for stove top cooking, you will need to stir the stew at least every 30 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. About an hour before you plan to serve, check the stew for thickness and seasoning. If it does not seem thick enough, shake the 2 T. flour in a small jar with a little water until the flour dissolves and add it to the stew. You should also add your mushrooms at this point if you are using them. I like to saute them briefly in a tsp. of butter before adding them to the stew. This is a trick I saw Ina Garten do on TV and it definitely gives a nice rich flavor, right there at the end of the cooking process.
Make sure to taste the stew, because the potatoes absorb alot of salt and you may need to add a little more.

Serve this with some crusty bread and perhaps a simple romaine lettuce salad. Or serve it all alone, after all, it's got everything you need for a well rounded dinner cooked right in!

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