The recent pre-Thanksgiving arctic blast here in the Northeast officially rang in stew season for me! I don’t eat beef often, but when I do I like it either grilled or with gravy.
This is most definitely a make-ahead dish. I like making stew on a weekend morning when I have other things to do around the house. You need to stay near the stove but not at the stove—the perfect time to multitask! I’ll do laundry…bake muffins for the week ahead (we’re currently loving this Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from Elana Amsterdam, which I bake into muffins)…read the newspaper…shop online…catch up on my Words with Friends games, etc.
The main reason I like making stew ahead of time is to remove the excess fat after it hardens in the refrigerator. The fact that stew tastes better the second day is a bonus, but not the motivator for me.
This recipe is truly for meat lovers. While it does contain a good amount of onions and mushrooms, there are no “stew veggies.” My family prefers their vegetables and potatoes roasted rather than mushy, so I cook them separately. But feel free to throw in some potatoes, carrots, celery, parsnip or whatever else you like in a stew.
This particular day, as you can see in the photo, I roasted butternut squash (I bought it cubed and then seasoned with salt and onion powder) and mini whole potatoes (seasoned with onion powder, garlic powder and salt). But the gravy is delicious over any whole grain, rice, pasta or even spiralized zucchini “noodles” or mashed cauliflower.
3 pounds stew meat
3 large onions, sliced
2 packages (16 to 20 ounces) white or Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dry red wine or red cooking wine (I used Marsala)
- Preheat a heavy, deep pan (I used an enamel cast-iron Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.
- Put in the stew meat, turning pieces to brown (but not cook) evenly, a minute or so for the first two sides. The subsequent sides will be quicker. (You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pot.) Remove the browned meat to a plate on the side. There should be some char stuck to the bottom of the pot. While health nuts will warn you that the char is not healthy, traditional cooks will tell you it’s the secret to a flavorful stew. “You have to burn the meat,” as my mother always says.
- Put in the onions and sauté until browned, about five minutes.
- Pour in red wine, which will boil almost immediately. Quickly scrape the char from the bottom of the pan. (I do this with a wooden spatula.)
- Once the bottom of the pot is scraped mostly clean (a minute or so), add the meat back to the pot. Put the mushrooms over the meat. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer.
- Let stew about two hours, stirring periodically, until meat is done to desired texture.
- Store meat and gravy in separate containers—this will make it easier to remove the fat after the gravy has cooled. Recombine when you rewarm, which you can do on the stove or in the microwave.
Note: While I say this is four-ingredient stew, as you can see in the photo, I did garnish with chopped fresh parsley. This beef stew is delicious but it is not so appetizing to photograph. Although the parsley will add a nice dash of freshness if you have some handy.
Variation: You can do this exact same recipe using bone-in chicken pieces instead of beef. Chicken stews in a fraction of the time as meat—about 30 minutes.
If you end up with leftover gravy, use it as a soup base. Simply mince vegetables (we recently used mushrooms, onions and zucchini) and boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. You may want to add a bit of water if the gravy flavor is too intense. Or extend it by adding some soup stock.