Despite the fact that fall is still technically a day away, it’s actually felt like fall here for the past week or so — I’ve even been wearing a coat and a scarf, which seems crazy for September. (Ok, it’s a decorative leopard-print scarf, but still.)
This weekend Shaun and I were both feeling a bit under the weather so Sunday night called for warm, fall-ish, comfort food. In the form of stew.
I googled a few recipes, but they all seemed to recommend a dutch oven, which I don’t have. So, in the end, I just went with no recipe at all. My favorite. Despite the fact that it doesn’t use a dutch oven, this is still a pretty typical way to make up a stew – feel free to improvise with the ingredients, because it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
In the instructions, I talk about a technique called deglazing — even though this sounds like it might be a bit fussy, I still use it whenever I make a stew. It adds a ton of flavor, without adding extra ingredients. A winner in my book.
Beef Stew With Nut Brown Beer
• 1 lb stew beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp pepper
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 large cooking onion, chopped
• 1 packaged mushrooms, sliced
• 3 medium potatoes (any kind), cut into bite-sized pieces
• 1/2 a bag of baby carrots, each carrot chopped in half
• 1 bottle nut brown ale (or other dark beer)
• 4 cups beef broth
• 3 tbsp cornstarch, or more flour (optional)
Don’t let the large list of ingredients fool you — use whatever veggies you like in this. No fuss, remember?
The first step is to brown the beef, and even though it’s technically unnecessary, I don’t recommend skipping it. It adds a lot to the flavor of the dish.
Chop your stew beef into bite-sized pieces. Mix your flour, salt, and pepper in a large freezer bag, and then throw in the pieces of beef. Shake well to get everything coated with flour.
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Do NOT use a non-stick pot. Once the oil is hot, add the flour-coated beef. Let the beef sit in the hot pan for a few minutes without moving if – you want the underside to brown. When you can see the bottom of the pot getting messy looking, flip the beef to brown on the other side. You WANT the pan to get kinda crusty and brown – when it starts looking like it would be a pain to wash out, that’s when it’s good.
Soon you will notice the beef starts to give off more moisture and the pan is filling with juice. At this point, use a rubber slotted spoon or spatula to remove the beef and put in a separate bowl.
Your empty pot should now be quite messy looking. Here’s where the “deglazing” comes in — that’s when you use a liquid to stir up all the brown bits. Add a small pour of your beer, just enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Using the rubber spatula, scrape away at the brown bits, stirring them into the beer as it heats. Get the bottom of the pot pretty clean, and the beer looking more savory – congratulations, you’ve just deglazed your pan!
Now add your mushrooms and onions into the same pot. Cook until onions are translucent. Then add your beef broth and the remainder of your beer. Add the beef back in. Cover and let simmer at about “medium” for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add in your potatoes and carrots. Cook another 15 minutes.
I like my stew quite thick, almost gravy-like. So at this point, mix your cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water, and stir to dissolve. Add to the stew and stir around. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until nicely thickened. If you prefer a thinner, more broth-ier stew, cut back on the cornstarch or omit entirely.
Note: For a very different flavor, you can substitute red wine for the beer. Or if you prefer, just increase the amount of beef broth and skip the alcohol altogether.
Having trouble with the deglaze? Here’s how it’s done