Cold winter days call out for rich and hearty beef stew. I just made some last night and cannot wait to dig into the leftovers for lunch today.
Below I share my super simple recipe. It is paired down from many stew recipes to the key ingredients and steps but still delivers amazing flavor, texture and comfort.
Simple Beef Stew
2 lbs stew beef (shout out to my favorite local butcher Hudson and Charles with all local, sustainable and grass-fed meats)
1 medium onion
1 - 2 carrots
1 - 2 celery stalks
8 crimini mushrooms
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 can stout beer (such a Guinness or Murphy's, I like Murphy's the best)
splash of apple cider vinegar (Optional but adds nutrition, depth of flavor and helps tenderize the meat even more.)
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Discarding the very tops and ends, slice carrots and celery on a slight angle into roughly 1/3" slices. No need to be super precise. Quarter the mushrooms. Dice the onion.
In a dutch oven or other stove and oven proof pot with a lid, brown the beef with a little canola oil. Brown each side carefully so each piece gets a nice caramelized crust. You will likely need to do this in at least 2 batches. Set browned meat aside.
If there is not much fat in the pot from the beef, add a little more canola oil. Add the onions, sprinkle a little salt over them and saute for a couple mins, scraping up any beef bits left in the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots, celery and mushrooms, a touch more salt and continue to saute until it all cooks down and caramelizes a little, about 5 more minutes.
Add in most of the can of beer and deglaze the pot, all the little bits stuck on the bottom of the pot should release into the liquid. Add the beef back into the pot. Bring to a boil for a minute and then add in some water so there is enough liquid to mostly cover the beef and vegetables. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprigs and splash of apple cider vinegar if using. Bring to a boil, stir, cover and pop into the oven for about 3 hours. About 2 hours in, check on the stew, give it a stir and taste it. Add salt if needed.
After cooking for about 3 hours, remove from the oven. Discard the bay leaf and thyme stalks. Give it a stir and add salt if desired.
While not required, I recommend adding a couple teaspoons of roux as it will thicken the sauce and add a gorgeous sheen. Many other stew recipes have you coat the meat in flour before browning it, this in the end helps thicken the stew. I find that step messy and smoky sometimes when I inevitably burn the flour a little while browning in multiple batches. The roux approach is easier and, in my opinion, leads to a superior result.
To make the roux, while the stew is in the oven, take a small pan and cook 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 slightly heaping tablespoons of flour over medium heat. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring most of the time, until the mixture smells a little nutty and has started to turn a touch brown. Set aside. When your stew is out of the oven and the bay leaf and thyme stalks have been removed, put the stew over a flame and add a couple teaspoons of roux to it. Cook for just a minute longer to help the roux set up. The result will be an extremely luscious sauce. Note you can make a larger batch of roux and store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks to use to thicken anything else up like gravy or as a start to a cheese sauce.
What to serve with this delicious stew?
The key is to have something to soak up all those amazing juices and to add a little starch. Traditional sides would be mashed potatoes or some crusty bread. Less traditional, yet my absolute favorite accompaniment is Yorkshire pudding, as show in the photos above. The combination is amazing. Here's an easy recipe from Serious Eats.