So I know I promised I was going to write about BSE today, but I made stew last night and got this fantastic idea to photograph it and blog about it… And everyone loves stew right!?
Now with the weather in North Dakota currently stormy and from the looks of it, the weather in Chico isn’t much better, what a perfect weekend for stew! And it’s such an easy, perfect weekend meal!
So first of all…. what kind of meat makes good stew..? Well basically anything that requires braising or cooking in a liquid. Typically the most tender meat does not make for good stew meat. It’s got to withstand a long time cooking so something really tender would literally fall apart halfway through.
Some good cuts for stew meat are any part of the chuck, arm (h-muscle, shoulder clod), top or bottom round, brisket, plate, or even top sirloin if you are feeling fancy! If you are unfamiliar with these cuts, please check out my guest post on cutting up a beef: http://thebeefjar.com/2011/07/25/guest-blog/
Now what essentially makes these cuts stew meat is the fact they are cut into about 3/4 to 1-1/2 inch cubes. You can have your butcher do this, but be advised that some places may charge more to do this. Here at Chico Locker, we charge the same amount for stew meat as we do a chuck roast, so we save you the mess and hassle. But really, it’s not hard to do. You can pick up any kind of roast from anywhere and cut the stew meat yourself in a pinch.
OR if you have roasts left in the freezer from your beef, thaw them out and use those for stew meat! Really anything that isn’t a steak makes for GREAT stew meat!
Either way… Your stew meat should look something like this:
Alright once your stew meat is all cut. The next step is to put it in a large bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of flour and add some salt, and pepper. And mix it all together. *I didn’t photograph this step because at this point I hadn’t decided to blog about stew yet*
Let this flour, meat mixture sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Beware: lots of chopping is involved in stew.
So here is the ingredients I put in my stew (minus a few not pictured). You can really add anything to stew. I’ve added parsnips, turnips, peas, green beans, whatever you fancy. Throw it in the pot when the time comes! And don’t worry about being too precise on any step of this, the beauty of stew is that it isn’t one of those recipes where being precise matters. Which is also one of the reasons it’s so easy! There really is no right or wrong way to make stew.
Cooking Tip: I find it easiest no matter what I am cooking to prep everything BEFORE you begin cooking. Chop everything you’re going to need, open all cans, etc. By doing this you really eliminate burning meals because all you need to do is throw ingredients in.
Find a rather large pot and heat ‘er up on the stove. Put some olive oil and butter in the pan. I use about 2-3 tablespoons of each. Or use one or the other, either way works. Once the pot gets hot, dump your stew meat in and brown it. And if you have a bunch of stew meat, brown it in batches. You want to make sure that each cube has room to brown. The object of browning the meat isn’t to cook it all the way through. It will still be bloody and red/pink inside. Your browned stew meat should look something like this.
Once your stew meat is all browned, remove it to a clean plate. And add about a cup and a half of red wine. And let the wine simmer in the pan while you scrape all the browned delicious little bits off the bottom with a spoon.
Then the secret ingredient: BEER! There’s just something about putting beer in stew that helps lend to super tender meat. I had Guinness on hand, but you can use any sort of beer really. I wouldn’t suggest anything flavored though. Sierra Nevada Porter works wonderfully too or Budweiser, whatever you drink!
Now that we’ve got our base. Time to start adding the veggies. Usually during this time I add some more salt and pepper. And of course, taste it to make sure I’m not missing anything. If you’d like your stew to have a little pep, some Tabasco can be added here. I added a bit of Worcestershire sauce to mine.
And the potatoes and celery. Just throw it all in. Add the browned meat back to the pot as well! And of course, got to add some herbs. I used thyme and rosemary. Now here’s the hard part… Put the lid on this and walk away. Let the stew simmer for about an hour a half to two. Or until the meat begins to become tender. With about a half hour left, open the lid and check ‘er out. At this time I usually like to taste test the meat, potatoes, and carrots to ensure they are all cooked. Also if your stew is still rather liquid-y and hasn’t thickened up. Take about 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch and mix it with a little bit (1/4 cup or so) of water. Dump this into the stew and stir up.
About 10 minutes before you are ready to eat, time to add some final ingredients. If you like corn, peas, or green beans in your stew. Now would be the time to add them. Adding them now will ensure they don’t get all mushy. I added corn to mine. Also if you need to add more cornstarch/water mixture to thicken ‘er up. Do it! Let it cook for a few more minutes. Your kitchen should be smelling delicious and your stew should look something like this:
Look at how amazing this looks!? Now is the best part. Get out a bowl and serve it up! Along with some fresh bread! Delicious! And perfect for a rainy day weekend!
For a printable of this recipe, here you go: