When the temperature dips below 60 degrees and you are a Texan, you are apt to declare it the first day of winter, dig out your favorite sweater, and make some beef stew. Or at least you might if you are me. I have maligned my poor mother’s cooking repeatedly on this blog so let me offer some counter-balance: my mom makes a mean beef stew. It is one of those dishes that has a lot of memories attached to it for me, like when I was a kid waiting impatiently for it to be done or the first time I made it in my own in my apartment (1,500 miles from home and lonely.) Some were more memorable than others but they all ended with a happy, full belly and a sense that all was right in the world. For many years, I made do with cooking my beloved stew in various dutch ovens but then sometime back I came into possession of this beauty:
Yep, that’s a Le Crueset . It is one fine piece of French manufacturing. I lucked into this 7.25-quart stunner for free and it has certainly made me want to save my pennies for another pot or two. Okay, enough drooling over the implements — let’s talk about what you will need to make your stew. You can scale down the recipe below but I encourage you not to underestimate how great it is as a leftover treat for the week.
Beef Stew (serves 8-10 as a main dish)
- 1.5 — 2 lbs stew meat (I favor more veggies in my stew but, if you are a carnivore, go for 2 lbs)
- 4 good size russet potatoes
- 1 lb carrots (I used baby carrots because peeling is not my favorite activity)
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 32 oz beef broth (I like reduced sodium because you can always put more salt in if you need to later)
- 1-2 cups water (more on this in a bit)
- 8 oz can tomato sauce
- 1-2 cups salsa (medium spicy)
- salt & pepper
Start by peeling your potatoes. Then dice potatoes, onions, and carrots to roughly the same size. I prefer them to be on the smaller side so you have a better chance of getting a little bit of everything in one bite. Throw them all in a bowl like so:
Next, cut your stew meat into similar bite-size pieces. I know, I know — why do more work when stew meat comes already cut up? Well, those pieces vary quite a bit in size and some of them are rather large. I don’t like to feel like I am fishing giant hunks of beef out of my stew and I’m wagering neither will you. When you’re done, it will all look like this:
Now you just heat up your large (7 qt or so) pot over medium heat and add a bit of oil. (I used some garlic olive oil I got at my favorite specialty food store but you could go with straight olive or canola oil.) Once it is hot, add your meat and let it cook just a bit.
Some people like to sear the meat before you add everything else. If you are one of those people, then add the meat in small batches at higher heat. This goes against my philosophy that beef stew should be as easy as possible so I just get mine browned up a little before I add in all of the veggies.
You can see that pot is pretty full. Luckily, all we need is to add enough liquid to cover everything. Start by emptying your beef broth in the pot.
Then add enough filtered water to cover everything. When you are done, it should look like this:
Bring it up to a good simmer and then lower the heat a bit and cover. Leave it be for about 45 minutes to an hour over low heat. Then add your tomato sauce.
Stir it up and leave it for another 30-45 minutes on low heat. Then add your salsa.
Don’t skip the salsa — it is the shortcut that gives you nice flavor and spice. My dad and I used so much salsa back in the day that my mom would buy the giant bottle of Pace Picante Medium. Today my favorite go-to bottled salsa is Mateo’s Medium. (Costco size — somethings do not change.) Stir that up and let the flavors meld for another 20 minutes. While that is happening you can whip up some cornbread.
Now cornbread is kind of like relish or pickles — some like it sweet and some do not. Some people feel very strongly on this issue. I do, too — in that I believe classic Jiffy cornbread to be the best on the planet. Can you really go wrong with America’s Favorite?
Whatever you are using, follow the directions on the box. I like to use buttermilk instead of milk in my cornbread — you might give it a try and see if you like it. Once the cornbread is done, serve up some stew in a big bowl and put a slice on the side like so…
Now the only thing left to decide is what beverage to serve with your lovely stew. I’m partial to a good beer. Since we were having a cozy Saturday night at home, I picked up a mixed six-pack of beer so the hubby and I could do a little tasting.
We sipped and slurped while we enjoyed the warm fire in our fireplace and watched The Avengers on DVD. Does life really get any better? I think not.