I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready for the seasons to change. The calendar says we’ve got a couple weeks of winter left, but the blossom-laden branches in my neighborhood are telling a different story.
There may be blooms on the trees, but it’s still a little cold and dreary out. And so, in honor of this last bit of winter, I give you one final cold weather dish — a hearty beef stew with tomatoes and red wine. The flavor profile is savory but simple. If you wanted to up the gourmet factor, you could certainly add some anchovies, a big spoonful of Dijon mustard, a sprig of rosemary, a handful of oil-cured black olives . . . but today I just felt like some good, old-fashioned stew. It really hit the spot.
Dredging the meat in seasoned flour before searing helps it to brown evenly, contributing great flavor to the stew. You don’t want to add so much flour, however, that the final texture of your stew ends up gummy or overly thick. For a fine and even coating, I use my mother’s method of combining some flour and spices in a big, paper grocery bag, adding the beef, and giving the whole thing a big shake. Next, I transfer the beef to a mesh strainer and shake it over the sink, getting rid of the excess flour.
The best cooking vessel for stew is a heavy-bottomed, cast iron dutch oven. Let it get nice and hot before adding the meat, and don’t crowd the pan — if you throw in all of the beef at once, it will drastically lower the temperature of your pot and end up steaming instead of browning, making for a gray and unappealing final result. Rather, sear it in a few small batches, leaving each piece of meat enough space to get a good brown crust. Silicone-lined kitchen tongs are a great tool for this process, allowing you to easily turn the pieces of meat, then transfer them from pot to plate.
Next, it’s time to sauté your mirepoix and garlic. A pinch of salt and a couple of minutes of covered cooking help to draw some moisture out of the vegetables, making it much easier to use those tongs once again to scrape up all of the browned bits of flour (a.k.a. fond) from the bottom of the pan. All that’s left to do is add the rest of your ingredients, bring the stew up to a simmer, then leave it alone for about two hours. Ladle the stew over egg noodles or rice for a comforting lunch or dinner.
Tomato Beef Stew (printer-friendly version)
1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1.33 lbs. beef stew meat
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, diced
8 oz. Crimini mushrooms, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 C. beef broth
1 C. dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1. In a large paper grocery bag, combine flour, paprika, pepper, and salt. Fold bag over tightly, then shake to combine.
2. Put the beef stew meat in the bag with the flour mixture. Close again, then shake vigorously until all of the stew meat is coated evenly with flour. Transfer the coated beef pieces to a mesh colander, and shake to remove excess flour. Set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil in a medium (5-1/2 quart) dutch oven over a medium flame. In three batches, sear the beef pieces for about two minutes on each side, until browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.
4. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and salt to the now empty dutch oven. Use your tongs to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring them in with the vegetables. Cover for two minutes, remove lid, then sauté for another five minutes or so, until onions are softened and translucent.
5. Add the seared beef back to the dutch oven, along with the mushrooms, canned tomatoes, beef broth, red wine, and bay leaf. Stir to combine, then cover and allow to come up to a simmer.
6. Turn flame down to low and let simmer for 2 hours, until beef is tender. Serve over rice or noodles.