I would be hard pressed to find a meal more comforting on a cold day than beef stew. When I’m not feeling well I can down chicken noodle soup all day, and when I want a comfort lunch a good tomato soup with grilled cheese hits the spot. But when it’s as cold as it was recently in Edmonton, a hearty beef stew just makes me feel good. Stews and soups somehow give me that feeling of connection to every generation that ever lived.
Soups and stews are interesting food. We boil stock, add stuff to it, simmer it for a few hours and viola, we have a meal. When I think of a stew I think of a liquid meal with chunks of meat and vegetables that have been simmered for hours and hours. It’s not much different from soup, in that we generally perform the same actions to create a hearty meal. Soups might be more refined now than they were thousands of years ago. I would hazard a guess and say we can thank the French for this refinement. Much of my culinary training was classic French methods of cooking, thus when I think of refined food French style comes to mind first.
For this week I made a hearty beef stew. I used eye of round and diced it up into ½ inch chunks and then added the rest of the ingredients to it. Stewing is really the process of cooking meat in a liquid for a long time. A medium to low heat is what you are looking for and at least an hour will give you the best flavour. I also like to add some alcohol to my stews, not too much, but enough to get the crispy bits off the bottom of the pan. It’s best to brown your meat over high heat, but you are not trying to burn it, so you will need to watch it. I recommend a heavy bottom pot around the 5-quart size. If you have a cast iron one, even better. Cast iron gives you that perfect heat distribution.
Brown your meat in small batches, you’ll want your hood fan on if you have a smaller kitchen. The reason you use smaller batches is to keep the heat in the pan consistent. Too much meat and you reduce the distribution of heat which requires more time to come back to temperature. If you put in about half the meat at first and keep about a ¼ to ½ inch of space between the chunks—that would be perfect. You don’t need to measure this, it’s just an eyeball estimation. Once the first batch is done let the pot heat back up for about a minute and add the rest of the meat. Add a tablespoon of canola oil to the bottom of the pot for the first batch and you should be ok. Brown your second batch, then remove it to the same place as the first. Add your vegetables and cook it, then add the meat back in. Add some flour to thicken it up, and then some of the alcohol goes in. You’re using it to scrap the bits off the bottom. The culinary term is called the fond, its where a lot of flavor sits. Follow the directions, and you will be happy you were patient!
If you have a gas stove, read the directions before you cook. There is a technique called Flambe. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s when you light alcohol on fire and cook it. If you’ve never done this before, then I highly recommend you turn your burner off before adding the alcohol. You can turn it back on at a later stage. Just read my directions to keep you, your family, and your home safe.
I hope you enjoy! By the way, check me out on Instagram homemade_is_better_yeg!
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp flour
1½ – 2 lbs eye of round, cut in to ½“ chunks
4 cups of beef stock
1 large carrot – peeled and diced
6 – 8 medium potatoes – peeled and diced
1 large onion – peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic – minced
¾ cups your favorite beer – stouts are great for stews, but an ale or lager work as well
¼ cup bourbon
1 tbsp parsley
2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 – 3 bay leaves
- Heat a 5-quart pot over high heat, add 1 TBSP of oil.
- Once heated add half the beef to the pot, a good sprinkle of salt, and brown the chunks on all sides.
- Remove the first batch to a plate or bowl and add the second batch of beef, some more salt and brown the meat.
- Once the second batch is browned remove it to the same bowl as the first.
- Stir to heat the oil, then add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes until the onions start to look translucent.
- Add in the carrots and cook until they are heated and brighter in color.
- Add your meat back in and the add the flour. Stir so everything gets coated.
- Add the bourbon and stir the bottom of the pot. NOTE: if you have a gas stove, turn it off before you add the bourbon. If you don’t, this is where that fun culinary pyro show will start, we call it flambe, the fire department might not appreciate your culinary prowess though.
- Cook the bourbon and the meat for about a minute, working it so the bits get picked off the bottom, add the beer. If you are working with a gas stove, you can turn it back on now.
- Cook the beer for about 2 -3 minutes, then add the beef stock and the herbs, and potatoes.
- Let it come to a boil and then taste it for salt content. You’ll likely want to add another 2-3 tsp, but you be the judge. Similar with the pepper.
- Turn the heat down to low and let the stew simmer for 1-2 hours, or 5. Add more stock as needed, you don’t want it to simmer dry. The longer you cook, the more tender the meat will be.
- Check the flavor and add more salt and pepper if needed, but remove the bay leaves before serving, unless you play the same game we do at my house. Whoever gets the bay leaf does the dishes… its usually my wife, but that’s because my kids cheat and move the bay leaf into her dish.
- Enjoy this stew!