I have a pretty strong nesting instinct year round. When the cold weather kicks in, though, I go into overdrive, and start to do things like knit scarves and make stew and bake in the wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep.
Here’s my first beef stew of the season. It’s a warm, satisfying mix of meltingly tender beef, soft potatoes, and sweet carrots—with just the tiniest, spicy hint of ginger and clove.
A note on ingredients & technique
For the method, I add things to the pot in order of the solidness I’m shooting for. For example, the meat goes in first, because I want it to break down and become really tender. The potatoes and carrots go in near the end because I want them to cook through, not dissolve completely.
For the wine, choose a bottle that you would drink. The act of reducing will only concentrate its flavor, so you want to start with something you like.
All the measurements below are approximate, as I really do believe that the act of stewing is one of watching and tasting and coaxing flavor out of the simplest ingredients.
When I’m lucky, it’s one that I do with apron on and a kitchen full of friends, a wooden spoon in one hand and a glass of good wine in the other.
Autumn Harvest Beef Stew
3 lbs. beef stew meat
2 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
4 cups beef stock
3 large fresh bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large soup spoons tomato paste
3 ribs celery, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 medium turnip, diced
1/4 tsp. powdered clove
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 of a 750 ml. bottle of red wine
6-8 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
12-15 baby carrots, cut in half
2 Tbls. fresh thyme, minced
2 Tbls. fresh parsley, minced
freshly cracked black pepper
Start with a large heavy stew pot and a frying pan
Add 1 Tbls. of olive oil to the stew pot, and 1 Tbls. of olive oil to your frying pan. Put them on the stove over high heat.
Divide the meat between the two pans. Sprinkle with salt and stir with a wooden spoon to coat with oil. Your goal is to sear the meat on all sides.
My stew pot:
My frying pan:
Flip the pieces of meat to get a nice sear on each side. This starts to develop your stew’s flavor.
When it’s good and brown, combine the meat from the frying pan with the meat in the stew pot. Keep the pot on medium-high heat.
Add the diced onions and stir to combine well. Saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes. As the onions begin to cook, stir steadily, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. (That’s pure flavor!)
Cook the beef and onions together for 5-7 minutes, until the onions are soft and start to get translucent.
Add the beef broth and stir to combine all ingredients.
Toss in the bay leaves and the garlic. Stir to combine.
Add the tomato paste. Stir really well to break it up and dissolve it completely.
Simmer for about 20 minutes uncovered on medium-high heat until the broth reduces by about one third. Stir occasionally.
Toss in the celery, fennel, and turnip. Stir to combine.
Simmer uncovered on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes. When the broth has reduced a bit and the veggies are cooked through, add the clove, ginger, and the half-bottle of wine. (Please, drink the rest!) Stir to combine well.
Simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and carrots.
Stir to combine. Dial your heat down to low. Cover your pot and walk away from it for another 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, uncover your pot and give the contents a good stir.
Start testing each component for doneness. To do this, pull a chunk of meat, potato, and carrot onto a plate. The meat should shred really easily when pulled at with a fork. The carrot and potato should be cooked through. If it’s not ready, cover your pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Test again.
Timing on this part is approximate, as it depends on how hot your stove is and how thick your ingredients are cut. When your stew is almost done, all the ingredients will be tender and the broth will be rich and thick.
Add the thyme and parsley. Stir to combine.
Give your stew a taste and add a little salt and pepper if needed.
Garnish with a little minced parsley, if you like. Serve and enjoy!