Cold days are rare in Texas so I appreciate all opportunities to cook something like this very comfort winter beef stew. I could not tell that I really miss month and month of winter, but during hot summer I’m so ready to put on a warm jacket, a long cozy scarf and go outside with a hope for a snow. For the last three years since we’ve moved in the US, I could only cherish my winter memories.
Days getting shorter, weather becoming colder, trees showing their fragile beauty waiting for the fur of snow. All those things on the border between life and death. Sure, it was no pleasure when you had to wait for a bus for 30 minutes standing on a windy bus stop. You hurry to get home and whisk under the warm blanket with a bowl of hot soup or a cup of tea.
Warm your house and your heart with the beef stew
There is a point in a row of cold days when you think: “God, I just want to have a bowl of a piping hot stew with mashed potatoes, sit in front of a TV and binge-watch “Friends””. I always imagine the slightly sweet rich sauce with big tender pieces of meat surrounded with melted onions, caramelized carrots, and mushrooms along with young peas. Then I just had to cook to satisfy this desire.
Cold days are perfect to warm your kitchen with an oven and slowly cook a good piece of meat in a delicious silky sauce. For me, warmth from a live fire or an oven, which is the heart of the home, is more pleasing than contemporary heating systems. This is another one reason why I wait for winter. So, if it’s cold outside and you want something warm and don’t mind the meat, go for it.
I wanted my stew to be a bit spicy, but not overwhelming, have a hint of smoky flavor and pleasant sweetness. Taste, taste, and taste all the time. It’s a pleasure not to follow the exact recipe.
Tweaking the winter beef stew recipe
All the recipes for the beef stew are pretty straightforward: get the right stewing meat, add some veggies, broth, alcohol, water or the mixture of any and cook slowly until meat is tender. Actually, you can’t go really wrong with it, so tweak any recipe according to what you have in the fridge and what you want to get as a result.
I had a standard set of vegetables for the base: onions, carrots, celery stalks. Plus a pack of store bought chicken stock (why not?) and some veggies.
I bought a bottle of dry sherry (Amontillado) and tried it for the first time. I like those moments when you have the opportunity to try something new. It was a fun experience with the sherry. I didn’t know what to expect and my first thought was “What a hell is this? How it’s possible to drink that awful thing?”. The second sip reconciles, the third brings a bit of understanding. Surprisingly, this sherry was refreshing and warming at the same time.
You can go with red wine, beer or stick with no alcohol version. I also used chicken stock but a vegetable one would be a good alternative. In the ingredient list, you will see a miso paste. I like to use a little bit just to add some complexity and umami taste to my stew, but you don’t have to. Also, you could add some fish sauce, a splash of soy sauce, vary veggies and spices. Try to add smoked paprika to add more smokiness. Prunes or some fresh banana for sweetness. You can add potatoes in the stew, but I prefer to omit the carbs to have some options later. I love such dishes with mashed potatoes, with buckwheat or with pasta.
Comfort winter beef stew
- 1.3 kg (2.5 lb) boneless beef chuck roast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 300 g (10 oz) small button mushrooms
- 3 medium carrots
- 4 medium yellow onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp honey
- 240 ml (1 cup) dry sherry
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- 150 g (5 oz) grape tomatoes or 2 tbs tomato paste
- 950 ml (4 cups) chicken stock low-sodium or no salt added
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 bay leaves
- A handful of fresh oregano
- Satl and black pepper for seasoning
- 1 dry ancho chili
- 1 dry smoked serrano chili
- 150 g (5 oz) fresh or frozen peas
- A bit of smoked salt to finish the dish
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C), put the tomatoes on a tray and bake for 15 minutes until they tender. Turn on the broiler and let them get some color, around 2-3 minutes. Let them cool and squeeze out of the skin. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F (or to lowest temperature your oven could maintain constant the simmering of the meat at).
- While tomatoes are baking, clean and quarter the mushrooms, peel the carrots and onions, cut the meat into thick stakes. Leave 1 carrot whole, cut 1 onion in half. Cut the rest 2 carrots into bite-sized pieces and the onions into thick wedges.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven until piping hot. Brown the meat on both size, about 6 minutes, remove to cutting board, let cool slightly and cut into 3,5-5 cm (1,5-2 inch) chunks. You may cut the meat into cubes before the browning and fry one portion at a time until well browned.
- To speed up the process brown the whole carrot, celery, and onion halves in the Dutch oven, add sherry and evaporate a quarter of it. Stir in the miso paste. Add tomatoes and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Then mix in Worcestershire sauce, add chicken stock and bring to simmer.
- Toss the meat with the flour and add to the Dutch oven, stir and bring to the simmer again. Add bay leaves and oregano, dry chilies, season with salt and pepper. Cover partly with the lid and put into the oven for 1,5 hours. The sauce should simmer all the time, so adjust your oven temperature.
- While stew is cooking, heat the tablespoon of the oil in a skillet and brown the mushrooms. Set aside. Put the carrots and onions in, add honey and let the veggies caramelize. Stir in minced garlic.
- After 1,5 hours remove the stew from the oven. With a tongues remove the onion halves and a carrot from it, stir in the veggies, bring to a simmer, partly cover and put back into the oven for one more hour or so. Check the meat after 40 minutes, it should be tender.
- Remove the cooked stew from the oven, stir in peas, adjust the seasoning. You can simmer the stew if you want to make the sauce thicker, but don't overcook the dish. If you do, add peas after this. Remove the chilies and serve finished with some smoked salt.
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