I wait all year for beef stew season. It means fall is coming, along with all of the other wonderfully cozy parts of autumn. It also means that feeding a few becomes just as simple as feeding a crowd with a dinner pot of stew.
The great thing about classic beef stew is how versatile it is: you can put just about anything in it. It’s one of those great “clean out the pantry” recipes. Speaking of which, the recipe below is easy and delicious on its own. But, if you happen to have these pantry items already kicking around on your shelf (meaning there’s no need to make a special trip to the store for them, they’re not essential) they make great add-ins to give your rustic stew a kick:
- Frozen peas I always forget that I have these kicking around in the freezer. Stir in a 10-ounce bag at the very end of cooking for a bright green kick
- Worcestershire It does the same for stew as it does for burgers. Just a few dashes will give your dish even more depth and heartiness
- Red wine If you have a bottle of red wine open from a night or two before, add a few splashes to give the stew that “slow-cooked all day” satisfaction
- Ground allspice or cloves I know it sounds a bit crazy but 1/2 teaspoon stirred into the pot will, similar to the Worcestershire, bring out the flavors of the meat and add depth and heartiness to the stew. Plus, like peas, I always seem to have a jar on the shelf that I forget is even there
- Chopped fresh herbs If you already have them in the refrigerator, a garnish of chopped parsley or tarragon is great finisher that will add color and a bright contrast to your hearty meal
Rustic Beef & Tomato Stew
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 pound beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces as needed
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 pound red-skin potatoes, cut into chunks
2 (14.5-ounce) cans beef broth or stock
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
Place a large metal or cast iron pot over medium heat with the oil. Pat the beef dry and, working in batches as needed, sear it off in the pan until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Remove the meat from the pan as it finishes and reserve it on a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery to the pot and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook for 1 minute. Add the dried thyme, potatoes, beef broth, tomatoes and reserved meat to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid up to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer the stew, stirring regularly, until the potatoes are tender and the meat can be easily shredded with a fork, about 90 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Serve the stew warm.
NOTE: Getting a deep golden brown sear on the beef is crucial to building flavor in the finished stew. Make sure that the meat is patted dry and hold off on seasoning it at the very beginning (you can do that later on). Salt will pull moisture out of the meat and get in the way of your beautiful golden brown searing efforts.
This dish only gets better with age. Save extra portions for next-day leftovers or an office-/school-ready lunch.
Looking for more quick & easy meals? Check out our Quick & Easy section!
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram & Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.