Simple Beef Stew

Beef StewThe weather here has finally turned a bit chilly (woohoo!) so comfort food is what I’m all about.

I am sitting on my couch as I type this and Eli, my four year old, is sitting at my feet and going through the ToysRUs catalog that came in the mail today.  He is rotating between shrieking and pointing, having conversations with the characters on the pages, and repeating the phrase, “Mom.  Mom.  Okay,  Mom.  Look at this.”  Nice and snuggly, we are.  It is overcast, a bit breezy, and very quiet outside.  Otherwise known as fuzzy sweatshirt-jean-scraf-chai tea-weather.  I suppose you could add Beef Stew to that list as well.

What can I say.  I’m predictable that way.  The temp drops and I start to live on nothing but hot chocolate.  I like to curl up in woven blankets and put together puzzles with a bowl of peanut M&M’s within reach.  My menu lists for the coming weeks start to say things like Roast Chicken with Glazed Honey Squash, Gringo Chicken Soup, and Enchilada Pie.

The bummer about this time of year, and as we head into the holidays and subzero temps, is that the food can be kind of heavy. Casseroles loaded with pasta, fat, carbs and cheese might warm us to our toes (and taste really really good), but on a regular basis, is not so good for the body.  So good news!  Comfort food doesn’t have to be heavy and heart attack inducing!! Hooray!

While this stew isn’t exactly health/spa food, it isn’t all that bad either.  Loaded with veggies and beef broth it has a simple ingredient list that keeps it on the lighter side while still reminding you of the classic stew you had as a kid!  This makes me feel infinitely better when I serve it with crusty bread slathered with salty butter.
Beef Stew One Year Ago: Killer Fries & Dark Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago: Heather’s Dip & Fluffy Caramel Apple Dip & Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies
Three Years Ago: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds & Fried Noodles & Sweet Potato Biscuits

Simple Beef Stew
I have made three batches of this in the last two weeks in an effort to get the spices and flavors juuuuuuuust right. In the pictures above, I used more tomato paste than is in the final version of the recipe.  I decided I liked the ratio in a previous batch better but didn’t want to make a fourth stew just to rephotograph it.  Sooooo… your stew will turn out less red.  Either way it is fantastic.  Also, don’t let the broth in the bowl above fool you.  This thickens up wonderfully.  What you can’t see in the picture is that it is SCREAMING hot!

2 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed of large sections of fat and cut into 1 inch chunks
olive, canola, or vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots
3 large white potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary (dried tends to be to tough in the stew so I don’t recommend it)
2 (14 oz) cans good quality beef broth, preferably low fat/low salt
1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste, about 2 rounded T
2 bay leaves

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot that is OVEN SAFE WITH A LID, brown the beef in batches in a bit of oil over medium or medium/high heat.  Season with salt and pepper and  be careful not to crowd the pan or they will steam instead of sear.  You just want them to get good color on them.  Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.  Meanwhile, peel and chunk the potatoes and carrots, cutting them into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Add the vegetables all at once to the pot after the beef is done, turning the heat down to medium.  Give them a toss now and then, letting them pull all the good flavors up off the bottom of the pan.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the onions are just starting to cook through.  Add the broth and tomato paste, letting the liquid deglaze the bottom.  Add the meat back in and then the herbs.  Give it a slow stir to distribute the flavors then cover and slide into a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove, stir carefully, and check to see if the largest potatoes and carrots are cooked through and if the meat is soft and tender.  If not, return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.  Sourdough is especially fabulous. Once cool, you can freeze this stew.  Just know that the potatoes might break down a bit when reheated.  Tastes great, just a bit thicker.