Unfussy Down Home Beef Stew Recipe

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Written by Guest | Last Updated November 1st, 2019
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Beef stew
There are millions of beef stew recipes out there. It seems that every grandma in every corner of the world has a different twist on this dish and most of them are delicious, or at least satisfying. The French are proud of their rich, wine-enhanced version, Beef Bourguignon.  There are versions across Latin America. It even exists in Asia, although with a different set of ingredients.

This recipe is for a simple, delicious version that doesn't require hours of preparation, inspection or babysitting. Or, I suppose we could call it "stove-sitting" in this case. Haha! Ha. OK, let's move on. You can think of this beef stew recipe as the simplest one that still tastes 5-star. It has become a necessity for times when I want to save money but still want a great meal. When you read the ingredients you might think there are not enough there. That's understandable, but the simplicity of this dish allows it to showcase all the flavors it has while keeping the beef and vegetables in the lead role. It's about balance, not complexity. It rivals the most complicated ones, I'd like to think, but it's down-home and unpretentious.

All that being said, this is not the easiest dish to make. It's more complicated than all those 3-step stew recipes you see scattered about the web. In my humble opinion, those often leave us wondering what went wrong when we take the lid off the pot, ready to chow down. This recipe will guide you through every step, so you can get it right. OK, don't be disappointed if it doesn't work out the first time. You'll get used to the process with practice!

There are 8 ingredients and one optional ingredient to this dish and there are no strict cooking times or proportions, only recommendations. You never really know when your potatoes are getting soft until you test them, right?

Prep Time

7 to 10 minutes

Cook Time

3 to 8 hours, depending on how tender you like your beef

Things You'll Need

  • A big pot that holds at least 4 quarts of liquid
  • A stove
  • A big spoon for stirring and manipulating
  • A knife, preferably a big one that you can cut potatoes with
  • A cutting board
  • A vegetable peeler or skinner. (You can use a knife instead, but be careful)
  • Measuring tools are optional
  • The ingredients below

Ingredients

  • Chuck beef, cut into 1.5-inch cubes - about a pound
  • Onion - up to one whole large one
  • Pepper - to taste, around a teaspoon
  • Salt - to taste, around a teaspoon
  • Potatoes, skinned and cut into 1.5-inch cubes - 2 or 3 medium ones (I use russets)
  • Beef broth - enough to cover all of the ingredients (about 32 ounces)
  • Carrots, skinned and cut into 2-inch long pieces - 2 medium ones
  • Oil for searing the beef (I use vegetable oil) - a couple of teaspoons
  • Something rich and savory or bold, such as wine, whiskey, fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce (optional) - to taste

Important Cautions

  • It may take you a few tries to get comfortable with the process.
  • You don't have to prepare the potatoes or carrots before you start cooking! Read the steps for more information.
  • If you crack your own pepper, you might not need a whole teaspoon. Add a little bit and taste before you add more.
  • How much onion is preferred will vary widely. I usually use half of a large one, but you can use your judgment.
  • If your carrots are really fat at one end, cut that end into quarters before you cut the 2-inch lengths. In other words, keep the thickness down to about an inch at most.  The end result should look something like the picture below. Try to make them a bit less plump than the potato cubes, as they cook slightly slower. In other words, making the carrot pieces slightly smaller than the potato pieces will allow all of the pieces (carrot and potato) to cook to the same level of tenderness over the same amount of time.

Cooked carrots

  • Step 3 is by far the most complicated step.  Read it a couple of times before you start. If you're already a pro when it comes to searing meat, your step 3 is simply "sear the beef".
  • Remember, it's hard to really ruin this dish. As long as you create something that's edible with these ingredients, it will probably taste pretty good. So have fun with it, especially if it's your first try.

Steps

  1. Prepare your beef and onion, first. Cut the beef into cubes, rinse the cubes and dry them with paper towels. The dryer the cubes are, the better they will sear. Then chop your onion into small pieces, as small as you wish.
  2. Next, Find a large pot, put your oil in it and set it on the stove over medium/high heat, meaning about 6 or 7 of 10 on the heat scale. If you see the oil smoking a little bit, don't worry.
  3. Put the beef cubes into the pot and spread them over the bottom.  Brown each side of the cubes for about a minute and a half.  You will probably be able to tell when a side is browned, but you can check one of them to find out for sure. Don't move them around much.  Just turn them when a side has been browned. *If the bottom of your pan is rapidly turning a dark color, take it off the heat, turn the heat down and then put the pan back on the heat.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions and saute them with the beef, tossing or stirring, for about 5 minutes. They shouldn't burn or turn dark colors, but they should start to look more transparent and soft.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and add the beef stock.  After a few minutes, the mixture should start to bubble a bit.
  6. Add the salt and pepper.
  7. Optionally, add your rich, dark ingredient.  Just make sure you don't make your stew too salty or sweet.
  8. Relax for a couple (or lots) of hours while the stew simmers. (Alternatively, complete step 9 and store veggies in a salt and water mixture, then wait some hours)
  9. Skin the potatoes and carrots. Cut them into the pieces described in the ingredients section.
  10. Put the carrots and potatoes into the stew. You can add a bit of water if things are sticking out of the broth. Let them cook until desired softness is achieved. Cook time can vary depending on size of cubes and temperature, but will probably take about an hour  After 30 minutes, check your pot and you'll have a better idea.
  11. Eat! Enjoy it with bread, if you wish.

 

 

 

 

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