Friday, December 2, 2011
Okay, it's time for a crazy confession. I love beef stew, but I like the vegetables in the stew better than I like the actual beef. I mean, I don't hate the beef. But I LOVE the way the beef flavor infuses the vegetables, and I love the beefy gravy.
You need the beef to get the beefy flavor, but if you want to use a little less meat with a lot more vegetables, you can up the flavor quotient by using buffalo instead if beef. To me, buffalo tastes just like beef, but with more flavor.
Stew can be cooked a number of different ways - in a slow cooker, in a Dutch oven (or other heavy pot) on the stovetop, or in that same Dutch oven in your oven. There are advantages and disadvantages for each method. For example, when you're cooking on the stovetop, you need to do a little more stirring because the heat is just from the bottom.
A crockpot is convenient since it doesn't need any attention. It also retains more moisture. That can be a good thing or a bad thing - you'll end up with more gravy, but it will be thinner. Cooking in the oven or on the stovetop will result in a thicker, richer gravy, but less of it. And you might need to add just a bit of liquid at the end of cooking, if it cooks down too much.
Cooking the stew in the Dutch oven in the oven means you don't need to do much stirring at all, so it's nearly as convenient as the crockpot.
The great thing about stew is that you can vary the ingredients to suit your taste - and what you have on hand. If you like more carrots, add more. If you don't have celery, leave it out. I used a large onion cut in wedges, but you could use smaller onions cut in half, or even smaller ones left whole.
Flour, for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 hands full fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into wedges through the root end so it hold together
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 can (from the tomatoes) red wine
1/2 can water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Dust the meat with flour. Heat a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the oil. Add the meat and cook until browned on all sides.
Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, and green beans and cook, stirring as needed for another minute or two. Add the onion, tomatoes, wine, water, thyme, and pepper flakes, if using. Add a few grinds of pepper and a teaspoon of salt. Stir gently to combine.
Cover the dutch oven and place it in the preheated oven. Cook until the meat and vegetables are very tender, 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Check it towards the end of cooking to make sure there is enough liquid, and add water, as needed. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired, then continue cooking until it is completely cooked.
Serve hot, Or, if you prefer, let the stew cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. The texture of stewed meat improves after chilling and reheating.