Try this while its still winter. Its easy and satisfying, and when you cook slowly in the oven the flavors intensify while the meat gets nice and tender.
I’ve been disappointed many times with results from the ubiquitous slow cooker, particularly when trying to make a good stew. So I resorted to the old-fashioned method of braising in a dutch oven. Braising is essentially cooking slowly in the oven in a heavy lidded, cast iron pot which holds its temperature well and cooks very evenly. Slow cooking in the oven is actually faster than using slow cookers on your counter top, since the slow cookers usually run at about 185 to 250 degrees and take a long time to get up to speed. Putting boiling food into a pre-heated 300 degree oven starts off much warmer and takes less time to get results.
I have also been frustrated by the variable quality of stew beef from the supermarket. You really don’t know what you’re getting when you buy a package of beef for stewing, and often these are just pieces trimmed off various cuts of meat which may or may not be suitable for a good stew. If you spend the few extra minutes it takes to buy a good pot roast and cut it up, you will be much happier with the result. Buy any pot roast cut from the chuck.
3 lb pot roast, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 cup frozen cut green beans (we used french style this time, but the heartier cut is better for stew)
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 large carrots, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 cup dry red wine (we recommend Beaujolais – you don’t want the wine to be overpowering and this a fairly mellow variety)
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups beef broth
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread the meat out on paper towels, and pat it dry with another layer of paper towels. Sprinkle the meat with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in your dutch oven until it is quite hot but not smoking. Brown the meat in batches over medium high heat, so that the meat isn’t crowded in the pot and can be turned easily as it is cooked. Put the browned meat aside in a bowl as it is cooked. Add an additional Tbsp of oil for the second batch of meat, but no more oil if you need 3 batches to finish browning.
Reduce the heat to medium, add another Tbsp of oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook until they are soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add 3 Tbsp of flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the wine, stir briefly, then add the broth while stirring constantly to fully dissolve the flour. Add 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp dried thyme. Bring just to boiling and add the reserved meat. Stir until the mixture starts to simmer, remove from the heat, and cover with the lid. Cook in the center of the oven for 1 hour.
Add the potatoes and carrots after the first hour of cooking, and continue cooking covered in the oven for an additional hour. Remove from the oven, add the green beans, replace the cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Mince enough parsley to equal ¼ cup while the dish is standing, then add the parsley just before serving. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
Your Daily Bread
Genesis 25: 19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.
23 The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. 27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.