I have always made stew the same way: saute onions in some oil, then brown some flour-covered beef in batches, deglaze, add the rest of the veggies and liquid and bake for an hour or two, then try to thicken it up on the stove-top with a flour-slurry, because it just never seemed to thicken in the oven.
I’ve never been happy with this so I’ve been poking around, looking for a better technique.
Then I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Jools’s favourite beef stew. In it, he talks about how it’s really not necessary to brown the meat in batches, as so many chefs would have you do and that he actually prefers the taste and texture of the stew when he doesn’t pre-brown. He simply sautes his onions, then throws in the floured, seasoned meat, the liquids, vegetables and then brings it to a boil on the stove before throwing a lid on it and forgetting about it in the oven for 3-4 hours. Let me tell you, when I followed these instructions, I preferred the outcome. The taste and texture was indeed better than any stew I’ve made in the past and the meat was perfectly tender (it’s been tough in the past).
So here’s what I did this time around for my best ever slow-cooked beef stew…
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 bunches small carrots, washed, peeled and cut into thick coins (approximately 2 cups)
- 3 large celery stalks, chopped
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp sweet curry powder (optional)
- 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 1-2 pinches salt
- 1/2 cup red wine, dark beer or Jack Daniel’s (optional — could use water or broth)
- 3-4 lbs Eye of Round roast (or your favourite cut of beef), cubed into 1-2 inch pieces and covered in seasoned whole wheat flour
- 1 pint sliced white mushrooms
- 2 lbs cubed potatoes, skin left on
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp steak sauce
- 2 boxes (about 8 cups) low sodium beef broth
- 2-3 large dried bay leaves (or 4-5 small ones)
- 2 cups frozen peas
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- In a large stewing pot over a medium heat, saute onions in the oil for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, carrots and celery and saute for about 2 more minutes.
- Add the seasonings (paprika to salt) and give this all a good stir to mix the
- Add the floured beef.
- Pour in the alcohol (or water/broth) and give this all a stir. Allow to cook for a minute.
- Add the mushrooms, potatoes, Worcestershire, steak sauce, beef broth and bay leaves.
- Give all of this a few good stirs and bring up to a boil.
- Remove from heat, cover with a fitted lid and put into the oven for 3-4 hours. (It’s done when you can remove a piece of meat and easily shred it apart with the back of a wooden spoon against your cutting board.)
- Add the frozen peas and stir them into the stew. Allow the stew to sit for about five minutes to allow the peas to cook through. You don’t need to put it on heat — the stew will be more than hot enough to do the job on its own.
- Remove the bay leaves before serving.
The broth will have reduced a bit and will be more of a gravy that should be quite thick coming out of the oven. It thickens overnight in the fridge as well, so it’s particularly good next-day.
Serve in bowls with large spoons either on its own or with a nice crusty bread/bun for dipping.