Good Beef Stew

My mom made a decent but watery beef stew when I was growing up. It was good, but nothing that I ever craved. Then, when I was in 5th grade, we went to a roundup at the National Bison Range, and I had some really wonderful bison stew, and after that I asked my mom if she could make beef stew more like that. She quickly adjusted her recipe to have a thicker, more meaty gravy… and it was wonderful.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost her recipe. But in 2010, she pointed me towards an article in Cook’s Illustrated on beef stew, and I decided to try the recipe, and I used it as the basis for my current recipe. I’ve added carrots, of course. I removed the gelatin in the broth in favor of a flour slurry, and rather than the hassle of using anchovy fillets or paste for the umami (I never keep anchovies around), I just use a little MSG1MSG is sadly maligned, partly as the result of racism in the mid-20th Century, but it’s perfectly safe and naturally occurring in seaweeds, anchovies, tomatoes, hard cheeses, mushrooms, and many other foods.. If you’re afraid of pure MSG, you can buy Umami powder, which is made from mushrooms and/or seaweed (which is where MSG was originally discovered). Of course, this is just MSG with other stuff still stuck to it.

Beef Stew Recipe #1

A nice rich stew. A little extra work, but very good, and it doesn’t take days.

Cuisine: American
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 4 lb. boneless chuck eye roast, heavily marbled, trimmed and cubed (1 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut pole to pole into 1/8″ slices (~2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-6 springs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup celery greens, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Pure, MSG (or more, if adulterated by fungus. See umami powder, above.)
  • 6 ounces salt pork (about 75% lean), rinsed of excess salt
  • 3-4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, 1″ pieces
  • 2 lb. Carrots, cut into large pieces. Or a bag of baby carrots.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb. frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  1. Pat cubed meat dry with paper towels, coat in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke . Add portion of beef cubes to pot (about 1/4, or enough that pieces are not touching each other) and cook until well browned on all sides, about 4-6 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer browned beef to large plate . Repeat with remaining beef, and add remaining vegetable oil if necessary. Remove all beef from pot, set aside.

  2. Add chopped onion to pot. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. De-glaze with 1 cup beef stock (or red wine, if you must).

  3. Add remaining beef stock to pot. Increase heat to high and simmer for about 2 minutes. Return all beef to pot. Add bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, celery leaves, pepper, MSG and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

  4. Remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes and carrots, cover, and cook another 30 minutes.

  5. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp flour with about a half cup of water to form a thick slurry. Add about half to the pot and stir. Add the remaining slurry (or more) until you achieve the desired consistency, waiting 2-3 minutes between adding more. Season with salt to taste. Cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are .

  6. Add peas to pot. Wait five minutes. Serve.

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