Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Beef Stew

1 1/2 lbs flat cut beef brisket
3-4 cups baby red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in quarters
1/2 cup carrots, cut 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup corn
1 bottle good, not too bitter, dark ale or stout (Guiness, Bass, Chimay)
1/2 tsp thyme
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 15 oz can of beef broth (or a couple cups beef stock is even better)
3-4 tbls flour

This stew is only moderately spiced, bringing the focus more on the beef and vegetable flavors. Feel free to double the seasonings if you like it like that.

Cut the brisket into 1" cubes. Heat 1 tbl each oil and butter or a couple tbls of bacon grease over medium high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, in shifts. If the fond starts to get too dark, deglaze with a little broth and wipe out the pot, setting aside the liquid to put back in later. Once the beef is all browned deglaze the pot, wipe it out and add a little more oil. Brown the onions, adding in the garlic toward the end. When there is about a minute left to cook the aromatics add the flour. Cook for about a minute then deglaze with the beer. Add the beef, broth, rosemary and thyme to the pot and simmer over low heat for an hour or two (or put in a 300 degree oven). When beef is almost done add the potatoes and carrots. Simmer till vegetables are cooked, adding the corn and peas in the last couple minutes.


I love beef stew but I had a hard time making it in the past, particularly with the meat. The prepackaged stuff sucks; the pieces are all different sizes, it's full of fat and gristle and you don't have any idea what cut it came from. So you buy a chuck shoulder roast or something like that and cut it yourself. Much better, but I had a hard time with the timing. I hate really squishy vegetables, so I want to add them at just the right time to cook all the way but I need to balance that with not having the beef over cook and just fall apart. Enter: brisket. I used it once because I really wanted stew and it was all I had. It works amazingly well. The cubes of meat stay together, even once they are stewed. Sure it can be overcooked and fall apart but I have found it takes much longer than standard stew beef. So what I do is add the potatoes when the meat is just about done. Then when they are done the meat is nice and tender. You can add the carrots in with the potatoes, but I like my carrots still crisp so I add them in when there is only about 5 minutes cooking time left.

So start off by browning the meat. Well, start by prepping the meat. Cut it into cubes. If you are using brisket you will want to remove the fat cap, I find it's easier to cut it into strips first then cut it off. I don't dredge the meat in flour, I've found that the flavor is better if you don't. When you dredge it you are browning the flour, not the meat. Brown the meat up well, in shifts then put it aside. Deglaze the pan with a little beer or broth and reserve the deglazing liquid. There is a lot of flavor in there, you don't want to lose it. Now wipe out the pot, if you don't any leftovers from deglazing will burn and be nasty when you brown the aromatics. Now brown the aromatics, bet you didn't see that coming! Heh. I like to brown the onions pretty well before I put in the garlic. I find minced or pressed garlic is easy to burn and that makes it gross. When the garlic and onion are just about done add the flour and cook it for a minute or so to get rid of the raw flour taste. This is a trick I learned from Cooks Illustrated, it thickens the stew but doesn't interfere with anything browning. Once you have cooked the flour, pour in the beer. Simmer it till the alcohol smell is gone. It's important to use good beer, no swill please. You also don't want one that is too bitter or else it will negatively effect the flavor of the stew. I use Guinness or a mellow Belgian typically. This time I used a bottled black and tan, but I don't think I would again. It was good, but not as good as the ones I normally use. Now dump the meat, any juices they have put out and the reserved deglazing liquid back in the pot. Add the broth and the seasonings, cover it and either lower the heat to really, really low or pop the pot (if it's oven safe) in a 300 degree oven. If you are doing it on the stove you will want to stir it occasionally so it doesn't scorch. Which is why I do it on the stove, I love stirring things. Now let it cook for a couple hours. How long really depends on the size of the beef pieces. I think mine went for two and a half or three hours, but I'm afraid I wasn't really paying attention like I should have. Black and Tan wasn't great for stew, but it's awesome for drinking. Heh. Once the meat is almost done (I check by biting into a piece) toss in the potatoes. You can add the carrots now too, but I don't like soft carrots so I add them in at the end. Cook the potatoes till they are done. Depending on the size it can take up to an hour or so. During the last 5 minutes of cooking I added the carrots, peas and corn. The peas and corn were frozen, but 5 minutes in a simmering pot of stew thawed and cooked them just fine. If the stew is too thin you can take a couple tablespoons of cold water, mix in a teaspoon or two or cornstarch (this is a cornstarch roux, I don't know if I have covered it in the past), bring the stew just to a low boil and mix it in. You should stir it while it thickens or else you might get lumps. That's it. Stew. Enjoy.


Michele said...

Bob, this looks great!

Bob said...

Thanks, Michele. :)

The Brutal Gourmet said...

I will have to make one like that when the weather is more amenable.

BTW, I invoke the Elder Brother Pedant Prerogative: A roux is cooked fat and wheat starch. Cornstarch, arrowroot or various others are thickening agents </pedant>.


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