Best-Ever Beef Stew
Makes: 8 servings
Total carbohydrates: 7 grams per serving
Hands-on Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 4 hours
This classic stew should be the mascot of your winter kitchen. It’s completely delicious, and it smells fabulous during its long stint in the oven, filling the house with warmth and promise. I love mushrooms, and the fact that they’re healthy, but if you don’t like them or don’t have any, just leave them out. This stew takes a long time to make, but honestly, after the rigorous and somewhat tedious browning of the meat, the oven does most of the work. Serve it with Creamy Mashed Cauliflower and a nice sharply-dressed green salad.
3 – 4 pounds beef stew meat (or buy a chuck roast and cut it into 2-inch cubes)
3 teaspoons kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt), divided
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons oil
1 onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick coins
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound white, button, or cremini mushrooms, halved if small or quartered if large
1 cup red wine (or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar diluted in a cup of broth or water)
1 cup water
1 cup canned tomato sauce or tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme or a large pinch dried thyme
Heat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit.
Season the meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt, and sprinkle the flour over all of it, tossing the cubes to coat them. It's okay if some cubes are flourier or saltier than others; it will all even out in the pot.
In a large Dutch oven (or another oven-proof pot), heat half the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Then add half the meat and brown it well on as many sides as is reasonably possible, using tongs to turn the cubes as they cook. Move the meat to a large bowl as it’s browned. (Don’t worry! You’ll cook the rest of the meat in a couple of minutes.)
Now add a splash more oil, all the vegetables, and the remaining salt to the pot and brown the vegetables, scraping the bottom of the pot to get up the meat bits left behind from before. The mushrooms will first get very dry-seeming and then, suddenly, they will start to give up some of their liquid. The whole process should take about 10 or 15 minutes. You want the mushrooms and onions to start to sear and brown, so take courage and turn the heat up a little if they seem more to be steaming. When it all looks nice and brown, dump it into the bowl with the first half of the meat. Add half the wine and half the water to the pan, scrape it to get up all the browned bits, then dump this liquid into the bowl.
Heat the remaining oil and brown the rest of the meat. When it’s done, add the rest of the water and wine to the pot and scrape up the browned bits. Add the contents of the bowl back to the pot, and add the tomato sauce or puree, herbs, and a big grinding of black pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat.
Put the lid on the pot and put the pot in the oven for around 3 hours, until the meat can be coaxed into shreds with a fork (note that you won’t actually be shredding the meat – this is just to check tenderness), checking on it every now and again to stir it a bit and make sure that the liquid isn't on the verge of being entirely evaporated; if it is, add a half cup of water. Taste for salt before serving.
Note: Instead of putting the pot in the oven at step 6, feel free to transfer the stew to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours. This method is also helpful if you don’t have an oven-proof pot.