Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classic Beef Stew for a rainy day in California

California is getting hit by a storm. We live far enough, North, that we aren't being hit with any serious flooding. I'm thankful that our Salinas Valley is being watered by Mother Nature. It's also a perfect way to spend my vacation with a fire crackling and to make stews.

I made an Austrian Goulash,  my annual Oktoberfest party. This afternoon, I decided to use some extra stew-cut beef chuck eye roast to make my fool-proof beef stew. I know, I know-- beef stew recipes are everywhere. Seriously, this is one of the best recipes I've ever eaten. It also comes together pretty fast. I've been known to make this in a pressure cooker, in less than 20 minutes. Today, though, I'm on vacation so I used my Dutch Oven and let it simmer on low for about 2 hours.

Before I show you the recipe, I'd like to give a refresher course on what it means to "sear" meat. When I had the privilege of meeting Tyler Florence (did I mention a few times that he even read my blog??!), not once but twice! Tyler made two dishes (I have yet to blog about) that involved searing and braising. Tyler says "color = flavor".

Tyler Florence getting ready to show a seared and braised rabbit dish.

Just a few of my many photos I took of Tyler Florence at the Harvest Festival, in my hometown
of Carmel Valley, CA

Sorry. Where was I? (Daydreaming of meeting Mr. Ultimate, himself).

I have a dear friend who's a great cook and baker. However, she says she can't get the crust sear like I do in my recipes. Why? Do you have that challenge yourself?

  • Make sure that your meat is really dry. Moisture creates steam and you cannot get a golden crust.
  • If possible, bring the meat to room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes (not overnight!)
  • Use a pan that has an even distribution of heat, if possible. You want the pan screaming hot!
  • Vegetable oil has a higher smoke point, but I use olive oil as much as I can.
  • You want to see the oil start to shimmer, and just a wisp of smoke starting to come up. See the sizzle of the meat?
  • Dredging the meat in seasoned flour (salt & pepper) will help with the crust-- and will help to thicken the stew.
See? 3 minutes per side and that's what you want!

The most important reason that I sear my meat, before braising is the make lots of brown crusting on the bottom of the pan. Color = flavor means that when you add liquid, you create a flavorful sauce. So, if you haven't tried or perfected searing-- stick with me. I finally got it down to a science.  I'll post a more lengthy tutorial when I post my recipe for Austrian Goulash.

So, here we go!

Look at all that flavor!  This took about 10 minutes to sear the meat... remove the meat and set it into a bowl.

Cook the veggies. I used baby carrots, chunky celery and two onions. If I had mushrooms, I would have added them. This took less than five minutes and it's time to add the garlic...careful not to burn it!

TIP: I sometimes buy picnic size wine just for cooking. That way I don't have to open an entire bottle of wine for just 1/2 cup. I never, EVER buy cooking wine. It's nasty-- salty and I'd never drink it. Rule of thumb, cook with what you would drink.  Shove the veggies to the side and pour 1/2 cup of red wine, with the heat on high. Stir! This will loosen up all those brown bits (fond).  Now, add a palm full of thyme (1 tablespoon?). I used dry thyme, because my plant is looking sparse right now.  Add  Tablespoons of tomatoes paste and stir it all up.

Now, add 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce about 12 ounces of beef stock. If you have homemade, I'm jealous. I use Trader Joe's boxed beef stock. Now, add potatoes and then the meat-- juice and all. I used Russet potatoes because it's all I had and I like the starch in it for thickening the gravy. Put the lid on, turn the stew to low and let it cook for at least an hour or two.
NOTE: You can cook this in a pressure cooker for about 25 minutes or even in a slower cooker.

Here's where I add some frozen peas... whatever you like. I used about 1 cup...maybe a little more. Give it a stir to heat the peas.  Warm up some French bread, because you will want to sop up every drop of gravy

This smells heavenly!

I love chunky potatoes. Scratch that. I love potatoes any way you care to make them.

Can you hear the rain pouring outside, and the fire crackling?  Honestly, this is the Ultimate Beef Stew!

The plates were wiped clean-- all two helpings for each of us! We have no shame.

Excuse me, while I grab my husband and stoke up the fire! What a stay-cation at Chez Debby's Bed & Breakfast!

TO ADAPT THIS TO A PRESSURE COOKER (I use an electric pressure cooker that has a browning cycle).
Brown the meat  and vegetables, and deglae in the pressure cooker, and follow the rest of the  recipe just as it is.  Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes.  Release the pressure, and then stir in the peas and serve.

Happily cooking up a storm,

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Kate said...

This looks delicious....comfort food for a rainy day!

The two inches that we were promised changed to 1/10 inch...now I think the whole storm was a figment of the imagination! And I so love the rain.

Stacey Snacks said...

It's almost beef stew weather here.....hard to believe we can go from a garden picked Carpese salad to beef stew in a matter of weeks!

TKW said...

It's stew weather here, too! Your version looks smashing!

Cheryl said...

Girl that looks delicious, it is on my things to make list. BTW I had no idea it actually rains in Cali!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

This looks awesome. can I use top sirloin for a stew? I have a big chunk in the freezer I need to use and this recipe looks so yummy!

Monica H said...

Who do I call to get a reservation?

I haven't had beef stew in ages. Like since my grandma made it when we were kids. I haven't tried to replicate it because I don't want to be disappointed. I'm almost happy with the memory of how it tasted. I don't know how long that will last though :-)

darnold23 said...

I'm a Tyler fan myself although I have never had the privilege of meeting him. I doubt that he has read my blog either:) Oh well...I still enjoy his books and shows. I host a weekly blog event called Crock Pot Wednesday and would love for you to join me in that. It's been raining every day for the past two weeks...first sun today! Fortunately, we are not in a flooded area either. I'm ready for some cool, DRY, fall weather.

Muneeba said...

Debby my girl, you got it so right with this stew ... Awe-Some. I have to keep reminding the hubbs abt the color = flavor rule .. he just freaks out & says "it's burnt!". Btw, did u happen to see TF in last week's Top Chef episode??

Mary said...

What a marvelous post!. Your photos are spectacular and the stew looks wonderful. I'm so glad I found you. I love your blog and have become a follower. Have a great day.

Mimi said...

Comfort food at its best- looks delicious.

Danielle said...

YUM! Nothing beats a beef stew for those "rare" rainy california days. I want some more so I can make some stew!

emma said...

Looks great....I probably am not seeing it, but when do you add the meat back in?

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Emma, thanks for pointing that out. It was on the recipe, on the bottom of the page, but I added it to my step-by-step instructions.

Kerstin said...

Mmm, this looks like the perfect stew to enjoy on a cold night - yum!

Megan said...

I'm looking forward to the cooler days and dishes like this one. It looks hearty and delicious!

Debinhawaii said...

Nothing like a good, classic beef stew--one of my faves. ;-)

grill seafood said...

Anybody else try to lick the screen? j/k That looks wonderful!

Camilla Pember said...

I used to sear the meat in a separate pan. But using the same pot to sear the meat AND cook the veggies adds to the flavor. Less to wash-up!

Maggie said...

Debbie, another homerun! This is 2 for 2 I made your meatloaf last week and tonite it was this fabulous stew. It is getting colder here in Chicago so this was perfect. I was laughing earlier as I too sopped up the last of my stew with a bite of bread. This was a great recipe and your pictures really help. Infact I did not have beef broth on hand so I used canned aujus and it worked great! Thanks again and you are now saved in my favorites and a go to site for recipes.