Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes
We had the best snow day last week…school was cancelled, work wasn’t happening and the only thing to do was hunker down in the house or go outside to play. With little kids, we didn’t have much choice, so we dug our saucers and sleds out of the garage, bundled up and invited friends over for a day of sledding. Not surprisingly, the boys (and I’m including husbands in this category) took charge of the fun, creating a luge-like course on a steep hill in our backyard and risking life and limb to see who could get to the bottom the fastest. When we finally came back inside, it was almost dark and everyone was starving. By chance, I’d made a big pot of this beef stew the day before so we warmed it up in the oven for an impromptu dinner party. Everyone agreed, it hit the spot.
It’s a classic French beef stew, otherwise known as Beef Bourguignon. The meat is seared in olive oil first, then slowly braised with garlic and onions in a wine-based broth. After a few hours in the oven, the meat becomes meltingly tender and enveloped in a rich, deeply flavored sauce.
It takes some time to make (about an hour of active cooking), but I promise you it’s well worth the effort. Aside from being delicious, it’s a one pot meal that feeds a crowd. You can also make it a day ahead—in fact, you should because the flavor improves the longer it sits.
The most important thing is to start with the right cut of meat. You want to buy chuck roast that is well-marbled—that means it should have a good amount of white veins of fat running through it. Stay away from meat generically packaged as “stew meat,” especially if it looks lean. As someone who has fed an entire pot of leathery stew to her dog, I can guarantee you it will not get tender, no matter how long you cook it.
The first step is to season the meat generously with salt and pepper and brown it in batches in a large, heavy pot. This caramelizes the meat, which adds depth and dimension to the stew.
Next, add the onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar to the pot. The vinegar will loosen all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and coat the onions and garlic.
Add the tomato paste, then toss the beef back into the pan with the flour. Pour the wine, stock, water and spices over the meat, then cover with a lid and braise in the oven for two hours.
Towards the end of cooking, add your carrots and potatoes (this prevents them from getting mushy)…
Cook an hour more, until the vegetables are cooked and the meat is almost falling apart.
Feel free to adapt the recipe to your liking. You can leave out the potatoes and serve it over buttered egg noodles, or toss in some frozen peas or sauteed mushrooms at the very end. Either way, serve it with a crusty bread to sop up all the sauce.
This is soul-satisfying comfort food for a cold night. Enjoy!
- 3 pounds boneless beef chuck (well-marbled), cut into 1½-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 7 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups dry red wine, such as Burgundy or Pinot Noir
- 2 cups beef broth (I like the Pacific organic brand)
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks on a diagonal
- 1 pound small white boiling potatoes (baby yukons), cut in half
- Fresh chopped parsley (optional for garnish)
- Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.
- Pat beef dry and season salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Brown meat in 3 batches, turning with tongs, about 5-8 minutes per batch, adding one tablespoon more oil for each batch. (To sear meat properly, do not crowd the pan and let meat develop brown crust before turning with tongs.) Transfer meat to a large plate and set aside.
- Add onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape brown bits from bottom of pan, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook a few minutes more. Add beef with juices back to pan and sprinkle with flour; stir with wooden spoon until flour is dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar; stir with wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from bottom of pan and bring to a boil. Cover pot with lid, transfer to preheated oven and braise for 2 hours.
- Remove pot from oven and add carrots and potatoes. Cover and place back in oven for 50-60 minutes more, or until vegetables are cooked and meat is very tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar go a long way). Let cool, then store in refrigerator overnight or until ready to serve. This stew improves in flavor if made at least 1 day ahead. Reheat, covered, over medium heat or in a 350°F oven. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.