In the Kitchen: Beef Stew

Any success I have in the kitchen is solely the responsibility of the recipes I find, and most mistakes I make happen when I try to strike out on my own (I feel there is a spiritual analogy here, but you are smart readers, so I will leave you to develop it on your own). I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way, but sometimes cooking a meal still ends up like this:

FYI – when searing meat, be sure to have a fan on in your kitchen. Don’t be like me; I had to open the windows to clear out the smoke, which is a fun thing to do in January.

So I decided to try my hand at beef stew. I came up with something that was a cross between Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Night Stew and Best Beef Stew from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (p. 7-8). P-Dub’s recipe called for turnips, which I didn’t have and wasn’t ready to experiment with, as well as mashed potatoes, which, while delicious, I was not willing to spend time on. The Test Kitchen recipe called for some ingredients I didn’t have nor was I willing to try just yet (anchovy paste? What? No.) but I wanted to put a couple of their methods to use. Plus their recipe called for diced potatoes and peas, which I did have on hand.

Here’s the result!

3tb olive oil
1tb butter
2lb beef stew
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced (it’s very important that you cry like a little girl while chopping, or the recipe will be ruined. RUINED)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 tsp if you buy it in the jar. Which I do, because I’m lazy like that)
4oz tomato paste
4 c beef broth or stock
1/2 tsp sugar
Handful of baby carrots, diced*
1lb or so of Yukon gold potatoes*
1 c peas*
*(I play fast and loose with my measurements. Just pray about it and then throw in as many vegetables as you want.)
A few shakes of dried parsley

pictured: diced carrots and onions, covered because my eyes can’t  breathe otherwise; seasoned beef stew, tomato paste mixed with garlic.

1) Pat dry the beef stew and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2) In a dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat half the oil and butter over medium-high or high heat. Throw in half the meat when the oil starts smoking. You should probably be wearing long sleeves and using tongs at this point. And for heaven’s sake, turn on a fan. It’s about to get hot up in here.

Phew. See?

3) Mess around with the meat until it’s seared on all sides. Set aside, add the rest of the oil and butter and do it all over again with the rest of the meat. It’s important to not overcrowd the pot, otherwise the meat just steams in its own juices and won’t get that nice sear on it.
4) When the second batch is done searing, either set aside or leave in pot and add diced onions and carrots. Stir around for a minute or two, until the onions begin to soften.
5) Add the garlic, stir around for 30 seconds.
5) Add the tomato paste, stir around for another 30 seconds to two minutes. (I actually had mixed the garlic with the tomato paste and added these two in at the same time.)
7) Throw in the sugar, pour in the broth and add the remaining beef back to the pot. Scrape up any burned bits from the bottom of the pan to add flavor, or just leave it alone if you don’t want black crust floating around in your stew. Your call.
8) Reduce heat to low, cover and summer for an hour and a half to two hours. This is a good time to go take a shower because you’ll probably assess yourself in the mirror and realize that there are tiny bits of meat and possibly oil in your hair and on your face.
9) After your shower, add the potatoes for another 30-45 mins (mine only needed 30 mins. Depends on how big you diced them. The bigger the chunks, the more time they will need to cook). When you can insert a fork into the potatoes without resistance, you’re good to go.
10) Add the peas in for the last five minutes and throw in some dried parsley. Or fresh if you have it!
11) Pat yourself on the back for making a stew from scratch with relatively few casualties.

(Because I’m a forgetter, I have no pictures of the finished product. Use your imagination and pretend it looked just like P-Dub’s stew)

Despite the smoke alarm cheering me on, the stew turned out just fine! I took some to my parents’ and got the thumbs up from both of them and my youngest brother, who declared it the best stew he’s ever eaten in his life. BOOM. OK, actually, there was a slightly bitter aftertaste and I’m not sure if I maybe burned the garlic (if I did, then in my defense, there’s a first time for everything SO THERE) or if those burned bits of seared meat were adding more than just “flavor.” But as with most things in life, we learn from it and move on, yes?

What do you have going on in your kitchen these days?

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