Hearty beef stew is even better reheated

SlateNovember 27, 2013 

I never had beef stew growing up — or at least not the American kind you see on those Campbell’s Chunky Soup labels.

The closest thing my Ukrainian immigrant mother ever made was a flour-thickened sauce concoction she called goulash — though it barely resembled the Hungarian classic given the total absence of paprika.

I learned how to make it myself when I was 16 and had to cook the family dinner for six months to earn my first pair of contact lenses.

After much practice, I’ve hit on a three-stage process for cooking the thickest and most flavorful beef stew that has ever stuck to your ribs. Set aside the browned meat while the first-stage vegetables start cooking down.

After an hour, add the meat. After another hour, the second-stage vegetables go in. By the time they are cooked, the meat will be fork-tender in a colorful and hearty sauce, with bite-size chunks of potatoes, carrots and peas. Serve it with crusty, buttered bread.

If you can, refrigerate it overnight before serving. The flavors will blend even more deeply and the fat will rise to the top so you can scoop it off if you’d like. Remove only as much refrigerated stew as you’ll be eating and heat it slowly.

I don’t think the word leftover properly applies to stew, which remains good no matter how much time passes. However, it may dry out in the refrigerator after a few days, so add a tablespoon of water if needed.

BEEF STEW WITH BACON AND BEER

Yield: 6 to 8 servings; time: 3 1/2 to 4 hours, largely unattended

8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon Emeril’s Original Essence (or paprika, or smoked paprika)

Salt and black pepper

1 1/2 pound chuck or round beef, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons butter

2 large yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots, 2 grated and 2 cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 3/4 teaspoon dried

2 bay leaves

2 cups beef stock

1 cup Guinness or other beer

2 cups canned chopped or diced tomatoes

1 large potato, cut 1/2-inch chunks

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Put the bacon in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crispy and browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels.

Combine the flour, the Essence or paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a plastic bag. Add the beef and shake to coat it evenly. Add the meat to the pot and cook, turning frequently, until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the butter to the pot.

When it melts, add the onions, grated carrots and celery. Cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables begin to soften and turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the parsley, garlic, rosemary (if desired), thyme, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the stock, the beer, the tomatoes, and half of the potato. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Return the beef and bacon to the pan; stir well and cook, covered, for another hour; stirring occasionally. (At this point, you can freeze the stew; thaw before proceeding.)

Add the chopped carrots and the remaining potato. Stir well and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Add the peas and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the peas are heated through, about 5 minutes, and serve. (Store leftover stew in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several days.)

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