Spring is right around the corner. But while many of us are counting down the days to warmer weather, we aren’t out of the woods yet. There are still some cold days ahead of us, which is why I’m making a stew. Sometimes there’s nothing like a hearty stew to warm the soul (especially when the weather isn’t doing the trick). Now I’m calling this the lazy man’s stew is because there is very little preparation involved in putting this dish together. If you have a dutch oven or a crock pot, all you need to do is cut up the vegetables/meat and let time do all the work for you.
This weekend I’m making a beef stew with all the vegetables I have lying around in my fridge: shallots, yellow onion, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and fresh rosemary. The great thing about making stews is that they are pretty fool proof so don’t be afraid to just throw in whatever you have lying around: red meat, chicken, root vegetables, leafy greens, canned foods, beans, barley, dried herbs, you name it. The rule of thumb to slow cooking is to not being shy with using cooking liquid (like broth, wine, vermouth, water, tomato puree) and to making sure all your ingredients cook in roughly the same amount of time. When slow cooking, you need to be aware of how long each of your ingredients takes to cook. For example if you put tomatoes and potatoes into your stew, be prepared for your tomatoes to break down after a couple of hours while your potatoes possibly still being under-cooked. So, make sure you give yourself enough cooking time with a stew or add ingredients after some time has gone by.
The second most important thing to keep in mind when you slow cook is to cut your ingredients the right size. This goes back to cooking time. You want to make sure that the potatoes and other dense vegetables are cut small enough so they cook all the way through in the same amount of time as the other ingredients take to cook.
After about 4 hours of leaving your stew to cook and develop flavor, you might want to come back to it and make sure the flavors are right. One thing you might want to ticker with is the thickness of the liquid–this will happen when you are at the end of your cooking time. You might notice that the liquid is a little runny. There are several ways to address this and thicken your stew. One technique is to take about 1-2 cups of liquid and vegetables, puree it, and return back to the stew. Another technique would be to remove about 3-5 Tbsp of liquid and combine with about 3 Tbsp of instant flour. You can then incorporate that newly-made paste into your stew. A third technique that I use is to combine equal parts softened butter with flour and then incorporate this paste one Tbsp at a time into your stew.
For the beef stew I prefer to use the third technique. The butter adds a nice richness to the stew. When you are done cooking you can also add fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste. To serve, you can eat the stew on its own but I prefer to put my stew over something that is going to soak up the juices. You can use polenta (hard or soft), mashed potatoes (if you haven’t already used them in your stew) or even over a bed of egg noodles, tossed in butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I chose the third option–a play on beef stroganoff.
below are links to some of my favorite stews and the recipe to what I made above. Enjoy!
2 russet potatoes, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 shallots, sliced
1-2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
1-2 cups carrot, chopped
12-16 oz. serloin steak, cut in 1/2-1 inch cubes
1-2 tbsp dried tyme
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves minced
1-2 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
2 cups beef broth
2 cups red wine
1 cup water
10-12 oz egg noodles
7-9 tbsp butter
3-4 tbsp unbleached white flour
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Heat a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place about 1 tbsp of butter in the pan and let melt. Add the chopped steak to the pan to brown, not cook. flip pieces once browned on one side. Remove beef once both sides have browned and set aside.
- With the burner still on, add 1/2-1 cup of wine to pan and with a spatula scrape off steak bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is deglazed, place liquid in a bowl and set aside.
- In a dutch oven or crock pot combine all ingredients except noodles, butter, flour and cheese.
- Cook for 4-6 hours on low to medium heat (check instructions of crock pot to decide on the temperature and time).
- After 4-6 hours, check on stew. Add flour/butter paste. let cook a little longer, 20 minutes, then turn off heat.
- Meanwhile cook egg noodles, drain, mix in a few tbsp of butter, grated Parigiano-Reggiano cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour stew over noodles and serve. Serves 4 people.
Other great recipes: