There are as many ways to make beef stew as there are cooks who make it. You could go crazy from all the variations. I call this version KISS Beef Stew because it reminds me of a saying I learned in one of my first jobs – “keep it simple stupid (KISS.)”
It’s a perfect one-pot dinner for a cold winter night. With salad and a loaf of good bread (plus a glass of red wine or cider) you’re set.
If you don’t have some of the ingredients for the stew, just improvise. Other than the beef and “hard” vegetables of some type, nothing is sacred in this recipe. Like making chicken soup, once you get the basics of this stew down, you can’t go wrong.
Don’t have sun-dried tomatoes? Use a couple of canned tomatoes without their juice and seeds. Or add the juice in as part of the 2 cups of liquid. Don’t eat pork? How about beef bacon or a bit of salami?
You get the picture.
I highly recommend making the stew at least 4-5 hours before serving it (or the day before), refrigerating and then re-heating it. Letting it rest improves beef stew, much like it does for brisket. Although you can skip the bacon and the dried tomatoes, they are part of what gives the gravy a rich, lovely taste. So substitute for them, but don’t leave out those layers of flavor. The amount of salt you use will depend on the saltiness of you bacon and your own tastebuds; I use low sodium bacon and sprinkle on only a touch of salt to my own portion on after reheating. My husband prefers his without any added salt and only a twist or two of freshly ground pepper.
Don’t panic if it looks as though all the liquid has disappeared when you take it out of the refrigerator. Upon reheating (gently under a low light at first), the liquid will reappear. If you want more liquid, just add another splash or two of broth, wine, juice from canned tomatoes or even water. You can even add more vegetables at that point, provided that you’ve softened them by parboiling them first.
KISS Beef Stew
Servings – 3-4 Cost $10-12
- 1–1 ¼ pounds of chuck or stew meat cut into 1–1½ inch cubes
- 1½ -2 tablespoons flour
- 4 strips (about 4 ounces) bacon
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped (about 2 cups chopped)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1-1½ tablespoons olive oil & 1 tablespoon butter or all olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups broth (beef or vegetable) or a mix of broth and red wine, plus an extra splash or two to create more gravy if you refrigerate the stew and reheat it later.
- 4 sun-dried tomato halves or 2-3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
- 1½ pounds of “hard” vegetables (I used about ½ pound each of carrots, parsnips and yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes), peeled and cut into chunks, plus a few more if desired.
- 8 ounces white or small portabella/crimini mushrooms quartered
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cutting board
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Heavy pot (preferably cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron) with tight fitting lid
- Medium saucepan with lid
- Pan (for sautéing mushrooms)
- Large spoon
- 2 bowls medium size bowls
- Paper towels
- Dry the cubes of meat and toss with the flour in a bowl. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the pot and then put the strips of bacon on the bottom, cooking them on a low-medium heat, turning as necessary until they are crispy. Remove to a paper towel- lined plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the pot.
- Add the chopped onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute. Remove the onions and garlic to a bowl, leaving behind any remaining bacon drippings.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and let it heat. Cook the flour-dusted meat in 2 batches on medium-high heat, turning it so that every side gets browned – approximately 3-5 minutes per batch. As the cubes brown and get crusty on the outside, remove them to the bowl with the onions and garlic.
- Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in the saucepan. Add the sundried tomatoes to the broth (assuming that yours are still dried and not reconstituted in olive oil) and boil them, covered for about 10 minutes. Once they are soft, lift them out of the broth and cut them into strips, then small pieces. Add the sun-dried tomato pieces to the bowl of onions, garlic, and meat and also crumble in the bacon. (I simply crush the bacon in the paper towel and then add it from there.)
- If there is any oil left in the pot, wipe it out with a paper towel. Then add back in the onions, garlic, beef cubes, and crumbled bacon, plus the broth, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover the pot and gently bring the mixture to a boil. Then let it simmer for 1 hour, covered, under a low light.
- Toward the end of the hour, melt 1 tablespoon of butter (or substitute olive oil) in the pan, and sauté the quartered mushrooms for about 5 minutes on high heat. When you first put them in the pan, leave them undisturbed for about 2 minutes, then turn them occasionally so that all sides get a chance to brown. If they don’t easily fit into the pan with in a single layer, do it in two batches.
- Add the hard vegetables and the mushrooms to the stew, bring it back up to a boil and let it simmer, again covered, for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper now, or after you cool and reheat it.