Please don't judge me too badly, as food culture was not quiet as educated as it is today, and to my credit I was only 4; but as a child, I was crazy about Dinty Moore Beef Stew (you know you remember the blue and red checkered can). Now I obviously have not had this "delicacy" for years and years, in fact I am not even sure this glorified Alpo still graces store shelves, indeed I hope not. I have, however, always had a desire to recreate its taste memory. Just call me sentimental. Unfortunately though, in my quest, never have I come close at capturing the essence of the beefy, aromatic goodness (not to mention proper texture and chunk ratio) of the quintessential down home stew. Until last night.
It was an unassuming bottle of Loius Jadot red that was going to be left unfinished that turned my mind to the savory possibilities. I already possessed the necessary ingredients, save the main one, and that was easily and (inexpensively) remedied by a pound of pre-packed stew meat (YAY, Central Market). I even had eager hands at the ready to help me in my mission- Isabella officially graduated to chopping with a small knife, and to keep Josephine on the same playing field as big sister, I ever so slightly pre-sliced the carrots for her to chop, so that she would have an easy time of it and be able to see where to make the next slice (think of it as a prep cook's cheat sheet). Samuel was chief stirrer of course, and I scoured for extra ingredients that might add that little extra something. In keeping with the theme of waste not, want not, I added some remaining peas collecting frost bite in the bottom of their opened bag in the freezer and voila', that was that. I am not sure what it says about my culinary future or ability, but I have made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, and I would rather eat this. Bon Appetite!
A few tips on preparation...
Federal government food policy aside, if you leave the beef out to rest at room temp on the counter for 15 minutes or so, it will brown much better (this is true with any meat). Just use common food safety sense when allowing meat to sit out- it will need to be promptly cooked of course. This is a perfect make ahead dish, as the longer the flavors marry, the more delicious it becomes. The extended cooking allows the usually tough (and inexpensive) cut of meat reserved for stews to really break down and become tender and full of flavor. Taste it- does it sing? If not, add more salt a 1/2 tsp at a time and that should do it (beef stocks have varying sodium content). And finally, in the video Isabella refers to "mirepoix" which is the traditional mixture of onion, celery, and carrots.
Best Ever Beef Stew
1 lb stew beef
scant 1 cup flour mixed with 1/2 tsp salt and a few fresh grindings of pepper
4 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup red wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 quart organic beef stock
2 cups water
2 yukon gold potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
1 cup frozen peas
1. Place the flour mixture on a large plate or shallow dish and liberally coat the stew beef.
2. In a large pot, get the olive oil good and hot (glistening but not smoking) over medium high heat and add the beef, shaking off excess flour before placing it in the pot. Brown on all sides for a couple of minutes per side, and then place the beef on a clean plate and set aside.
3. But another couple of TBS of olive oil in to the pot if it appears too dry, and then place the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in and cook for 8 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme and stir.
4. Deglaze the pan with the wine, taking care to scrape up all of the yummy brown stuck on bits (the flavor!), then add the tomatoes, stock, water, potatoes, and peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for at least and hour and a half (I let mine simmer slowly for about 4 1/2 hours).