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The snow is falling outside for the second time this year and everything is closing down in town for the night. My husband is about to come home and my kids are outside playing with flashlights in the dark, bundled up in all their snow gear. There is nothing I want more for dinner than this recipe for Comforting Beef Stew. It’s hearty, warm, and flavorful. The house smells absolutely amazing while it cooks and I get to enjoy some of the leftover red wine that I didn’t use in the recipe. Beef stew is just one of those meals, it transcends time and place. I can picture it being cooked in just about every home, in every place and during multiple centuries. There is not a geographic region that specializes in it, no right or wrong way to make it, it just is. You say beef stew and people generally know what to expect. That’s what’s so comforting about it.
I have made this beef stew with both beef and elk interchangeably. They both work great, and if you have wild game to use it would be perfect in this recipe. Cut your meat down into small pieces that will fit on a spoon. I generally like them to be about 1 inch cubes. The meat gets tossed in some all purpose flour and then browned in bacon fat to help create a wonderful fond (the brown bits on the bottom of the pan). Once all the meat is browned you can add in your vegetables to soften a bit, then aromatics like bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and garlic. Before adding in any stock, I put in a small 1/2 C of red wine and scrape my wooden spoon on the bottom to release the fond that has collected there. That fond helps to flavor your broth and make it more earthy and rich.
Stew meat is generally tough and requires time to cook and get tender. A general rule of thumb is two hours. Those two hours give the connective tissues in the meat time to soften and melt which helps flavor the broth and allows the meat to get extra tender. You can buy meat already cubed or you can use a good chuck roast. If using wild game use a cut of meat from the neck or shoulders (equivalent to a chuck roast). We serve this as is in a bowl with spoons and lots of crusty bread to sop up the delicious broth left in the bowl.
As always I prefer to cook this in my dutch oven. You can find the links to my favorite two here:
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs stew meat (I prefer beef chuck roast or shoulder meat of an elk)
- 1/2 C all purpose flour
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 1 russet potato, cleaned and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 C red wine (whatever you like to drink, I use Cabernet)
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I like fire roasted diced)
- 4 C beef broth
- 2 C water
- 1 C frozen green peas
- Heat a 6 qt dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.
- Once hot add in the bacon and cook stirring often until browned and crispy. Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon to a plate. Leaving the fat in the pot.
- In a large resealable plastic bag mix together the flour, 1/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Add in the cubed meat, seal the bag and shake until the meat is well coated.
- Put half of the meat into the fat in the dutch oven. Allow it to cook on the first side until nice and brown, about two minutes. Turn the meat over and cook on the next side an additional two minutes or until well browned. Remove the meat to the plate with the bacon. Put 1 tbsp of olive oil into the pan and allow it to get hot, about thirty seconds or so. Then add in the next batch of meat and cook the same way as you did with the first half. Remove all the meat to the plate with the bacon.
- Add in 2 tbsp olive oil to the pot, then toss in the onion, potato and carrots. Add in 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Allow the vegetables to cook until slightly softened about five to seven minutes.
- Add in the garlic and tomato paste. Mix these around with the vegetables.
- Pour in the 1/2 C of red wine and using your wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to release the fond (brown bits). Once the fond has released from the bottom of the pan, add in the meat, bacon, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes with their juices, beef broth and 2 cups of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Add in the 1 C of green peas, then cook an additional 15 minutes covered.
- Turn the heat off and serve in bowls with crusty white bread.
Looking for other soups? Try one of these out: