Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn Harvest Beef Stew

I don't know about you but on a cold rainy day such as today I like to have a big bowl of hearty beef stew. So my boyfriend and I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients and while there I was inspired to make a stew that was not as traditional as I always make it.  This is a pretty simple recipe that cooks up nicely in about an hour, plus the prep time it takes to cut up all the veggies.  This is definitely a vegetable heavy stew that still has a lot of beef chunks and flavor you crave from a beef stew. The thing that inspired me the most to make a slightly non-traditional beef stew was that butternut squash was on sale, I absolutely love butternut squash and I was thinking about putting it in the stew but wasn't sure how it would taste in the stew. I think it ended up being a success, hence the blog!

Autumn Harvest Beef Stew
1.5lb stew beef (venison/buffalo also great)
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
8oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 parsnips, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 small/medium potatoes
2 boxes organic beef broth
1 small can tomato paste
1/3 bottle red wine

Make sure to prep everything before starting to saute the vegetables. You don't want to have to turn off the heat to prevent burning. And always cut your vegetables the same size so that you will have even cooking. And with the stew beef, I always cut the beef into smaller chunks because the store usually cuts them awfully large for my taste and it will take longer to cook and tenderize in the stew.

Heat a large stockpot on medium-high to high heat with a small amount of oil in it. Add the veggies to saute until they start to get soft and then add the beef. Saute everything until the beef is browned a bit. Add the can of tomato paste. The tomato paste adds acidity to the stew which helps tenderize the beef. I gave my mom this tip when I first went to culinary school and now she swears by tomato paste in her stews because according to her the meat becomes more tender than she ever has gotten it before.  After you mix the tomato paste in to coat everything, deglaze with the red wine. When you deglaze you get all the yummy browned bits off the bottom of the pan which adds a lot of flavor to the stew.  If you don't have wine you can always use beer as well, I suggest a stout for beef.

Once you get all the bits off the bottom of the pot let the red wine reduce by half and add the beef broth.  You can always use stock as well, and I generally prefer stock, however at the store the organic beef broth had the best ingredients.  Its never a good sign when you try to buy beef stock and there are more ingredients in it than just "beef stock". At least the beef broth I got only had two ingredients, beef stock and water.  Usually beef broth is a watered down and saltier version of beef stock and when using beef broth you have to be careful when you reduce it because it can get very salty quick.  I was very happy with my purchase of this organic beef broth though. Always check the ingredients!

After adding the broth, reduce the heat to medium heat and leaving it uncovered let it simmer for about an hour. Then I usually pull out a piece of meat and check to see if its tender to my satisfaction.  I was really surprised how quickly it tenderized when I made it, but its because of the combination of cutting the beef into smaller bite size pieces and the tomato paste.  Plus I think the wine I got at the wine store had a little higher acidity as well. When choosing a wine just ask the employees at the wine stores what red would go well in a stew, they are usually pretty helpful in finding something that is reasonably priced and something you can drink the rest of while waiting for the stew to finish! My stew just by reducing from the simmering thickened up on its own, but if you want to thicken it up some more make a cornstarch slurry by adding a few tablespoons of cornstarch to about a cup of cold water and add it to a boiling stew and stir until it thickens.  Repeat if you want it still thicker.

I ended up serving my stew with some nice crusty sourdough bread which really made the whole meal completely awesome. As you see in the picture my dog loved the smell and was trying to get some herself!