Old-fashioned beef stew is a classic comfort food, perfect for these cool or cold days, especially if it is raining or snowing where you live. Rich with deep beef flavor and brimming with healthy vegetables, this is a meal that will warm you to your toes and soothe your heart.
Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to tell you a love story. Perhaps not the most traditional, or one that would immediately come to mind, but I feel this demonstrates what true love is.
My parents met when they were very young in a small rural Indiana town. My father was two years older than my mother and their paths didn’t cross until high school. But once they did meet their future was sealed. The first time my father saw my mother she was a nervous freshman who didn’t appreciate being teased by an upperclassman. She was adorable and he immediately liked her. They dated through high school and college.
My parents were married as soon as my father graduated from the Naval Academy, after the end of World War II in June 1947. With my three brothers healthy and rambunctious, ten years after their wedding – to the day – I was born.
I grew up eating the standard comfort foods of the day, such as fried chicken, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna casserole, and meatloaf. There was always enough food to fill us all up and with lively conversations at the table, dinners were the highlight of the day.
My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and then my father was diagnosed with cancer. He had a couple more pretty healthy years, but as he declined, he became concerned about my mother’s financial security. After a lot of discussion, he decided that the safest thing he could do was to divorce my mother, protecting her in case he lingered and the medical costs became prohibitive.
Even with his incredible pain and the depression of dying so young (he was only 62), my father’s first concern was his wife and family. He was more worried about our welfare than his own situation.
My mother believed in her marriage vows and wanted to be with him until the end. When she knew that my father was in his final weeks, she cancelled the legal divorce proceedings and my parents remained married until his death. They were married 43 years.
In my opinion, this is the epitome of selfless love and the kind of commitment to marriage that most of us dream of finding. So for this year’s Valentine’s Day, I dedicate today’s post and recipe to my parents.
Now, on to the food!
This beef stew is a meal from my childhood that always soothes my soul and brings joy to my heart. If you’ve never made beef stew from scratch, nothing is easier or tastier, especially on cold winter evenings.
This meal takes a little time in the beginning and then you can walk away and forget about it. I love braises for this reason – so little hands-on time and full-flavored homemade meals that are healthy and make the entire family happy.
Whenever you are making a long cooking meal, please don’t spend a lot of money on expensive cuts of beef – cheaper is better for stews! The tougher cuts of meat have more flavor and need extended gentle cooking to tenderize them. While I wrote this meal to be ready in less than two hours because of the type of meat I chose, you can leave it on low for an hour longer if you need to, or cook it in a slow cooker on low for many hours. It is extremely flexible.
The classic vegetables in beef stew are simply potatoes and carrots but you can add anything you like. This week I had a lot of celery, some garlic, bell peppers and poblano peppers on hand, so they went in the pot. I would stick with mostly root vegetables and aromatics if you want the traditional flavors to come through. You can even go all vegetarian if you use vegetable broth and add some hearty mushrooms such as cremini cut in halves or quarters to mimic the beef cubes. Obviously, the cooking time would be much shorter with a vegetarian stew.
This version is made mostly of vegetables, making it both cost effective and healthy. If you want to add potatoes to your stew and are using Russets, peel them, cut into cubes, and add at the halfway point. If you add them at the beginning they would be overcooked and dissolve into the stew.
Just like many braised or slowly simmered foods, this is better on the second or third day. That makes this the perfect food to cook on the weekend and serve during the week. You can reheat it in the microwave and it will still be full-flavored and delicious – no need to clean another pot!
Bonus, it is perfect football game day food, so feel free to make it on Saturday and serve during the festivities on Sunday!
While hearts, flowers and boxes of candy are always appreciated on Valentine’s Day, a beautiful homemade dinner with this old-fashioned beef stew, and surrounded by the people we love is my idea of the perfect celebration!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Let me know in the comments and leave a star rating, I love hearing from you!
Ingredients needed for Old-Fashioned Beef Stew:
- Olive oil, beef roast, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, poblano pepper
- Red wine, beef or chicken stock, demi-glace or bouillon, thyme
- Rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, noodles, potatoes, or rice
The Tip of Deglazing:
The trick to get the most flavor in this old-fashioned beef stew or a soup is to brown the meat first in a little oil, starting to build the browned bits on the bottom of the pan that pack a punch of deliciousness. The challenge is to keep the pan from getting too hot and burning the ingredients.
Once you have everything browned, you deglaze the pan, usually with wine but any liquid will work. The sudden addition of liquids helps release the browned bits, called fond, and dissolves them, imparting their flavors into the liquid. Even if you are going to make this in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, using this technique of browning and deglazing and then transferring everything to the slow cooker will guarantee a deep, rich broth that your family will love.
How to make Old-Fashioned Beef Stew:
- Brown the beef cubes on all sides in hot oil, working in batches, and remove with a slotted spoon (place on a large plate or baking sheet); add the onions to the same pan and cook until softened, stirring often, then add the garlic, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and poblano peppers, stirring to coat everything in the oil
- Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan, releasing any browned bits, then return the browned beef to the pan along with any accumulated juices; pour 1 cup of the stock into a bowl and add the demi-glace or bouillon, whisking until completely dissolved, then pour into the pan with the beef and stir it in
- Add enough stock to nearly cover the meat and vegetables, stir in the thyme, rosemary, and a bay leaf; bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered; stir the stew and continue simmering another 30 minutes or until the beef and vegetables are tender and the broth richly flavored
- If you want to thicken the broth, whisk together water and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk into the stew; bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, until thickened, repeat with a second cornstarch slurry if you want it thicker, taste and adjust seasonings
- Ladle the stew into bowls (serve over cooked noodles, rice, or potatoes if desired) and serve hot
I love making this old-fashioned beef stew if I have guests coming for a weekend visit. Make it on Friday and your house will smell heavenly when they arrive. Serve it that night or the next day (flavors improve with time) and you will have leftovers for warming lunches during the weekend.
If you cannot have corn products, you can use arrowroot or potato starch in place of the cornstarch.
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dutch oven or stockpot with a universal lid
- Wooden spatula
- Small whisk
- Serving bowls
This old-fashioned beef stew is naturally gluten-free unless you decide to thicken the broth. Instead of flour, use cornstarch in a little water to make a slurry, whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Stir this mixture into the broth, bring to a boil and stir until thickened to your liking. If you want it a little thicker, make another slurry and repeat the process. If it gets too thick, add a little more beef stock to thin it out. Also, be sure the stock you use is gluten-free.
All recommended ingredients are gluten-free as of the writing of this article. Always check to be sure the products haven’t changed and are still safe to consume.
*NOTE: The major gluten-free organizations have declared that distilled alcohols are gluten free. Wine is also considered gluten-free. But there is a slight possibility that some producers may use barrels for aging that contain minute amounts of gluten in the calking compound. If you have issues with wine, you may be one of the few impacted by this exposure. Look for wineries that only use stainless tanks for aging their wines.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 to 4 lb (0.9 to 1.8kg) London broil or sirloin roast,* cut in 2-inch cubes
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 10 to 12 slender carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 4 large stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, optional
- 2 cups (473ml) red wine, Madeira or dry vermouth**
- 3 to 4 cups (710 to 946ml) gluten-free beef or chicken stock
- 1 tsp beef demi-glace or bouillon, optional
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cooked noodles, potatoes or rice, for serving, optional
- In a Dutch oven or heavy, large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add half of the beef cubes. Spread out into a single layer and do not disturb until brown. When the first side is well browned and pieces release easily, stir and continue browning the other sides. When all the pieces are well browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked beef to a large platter.
- Add the remaining beef to the pan and repeat the browning process. Add a little more oil if needed. When done use the slotted spoon to add the second batch of meat to the platter of browned beef.
- Add the onions to the pan, stirring to coat them with the oil in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic,
carrots, celery, bell peppers, and poblano peppers. Stir to blend and coat all ingredients with the residual oil.
- Add the wine to the pan to deglaze it. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to release any browned bits on the bottom of the pan scraping to be sure the entire bottom is smooth and clean. Return the cooked beef and any accumulated juices to the pan, stirring into the vegetables.
- Pour 1 cup (237ml) of the stock into a bowl and add the demi-glace or
bouillon. Whisk together until fully dissolved. Add this mixture to the meat and vegetables and stir it in. Add enough stock to almost cover the meat and vegetables. The amount of stock will be determined by the size of the pan you use. I needed about 4 cups (946ml) total (including the amount I used with the bouillon).
- Stir in the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered. Stir thoroughly and continue simmering for another 30 minutes** or until the broth is richly flavored and the beef and vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the broth and add more salt or pepper if needed.
- If you like a slightly thicker broth for your stew, whisk together 2 tablespoons water with 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk into the stew. Return the stew to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened. Cornstarch slurries need heat to activate and thicken. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. If you want it thicker, repeat making the slurry, stirring it in, and bringing the stew back to a boil.
- Ladle into bowls. If you want you can also serve it over cooked noodles, potatoes or rice. Serve hot.
Recipe found at www.theheritagecook.com
Be careful that you use gluten-free stock in this recipe. All recommended ingredients are gluten-free as of the writing of this article. Always check to be sure the products haven’t changed and are still safe to consume.
* If you use a tougher cut of meat, like a chuck roast, the cooking time will be longer because it takes longer to break down the fibers in chuck roasts. Cook as long as the meat requires, doing taste tests along the way.
** The major gluten-free organizations have declared that distilled alcohols are gluten free. Wine is also considered gluten-free. But there is a slight possibility that some producers may use barrels for aging that contain minute amounts of gluten in the calking compound. If you have issues with wine, you may be one of the few impacted by this exposure. Look for wineries that only use stainless tanks for aging their wines.
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