I haven’t made Western style beef stew in a while. The last two beef stews I made was the Chinese style beef stew that I blogged about a while back (with tendon and daikon). But recently, I got myself some beef chuck and I had in mind to make a different beef stew.
The Perfect Beef Stew Recipe
I normally have a go-to recipe for my basic beef stew. I got it a while back when I was reading The Perfect Recipe: Getting It Right Every Time by Pam Anderson. Being that she is an executive editor of Cook’s Illustrated, it’s no wonder that her cookbook is detailed and exhaustive in the same way that the magazine is.
And she does a fantastic job of explaining what cuts of meat and what types of wine she trialed and why each ingredient works the way they do. I love cookbooks that do more than just give a recipe. As a teacher, I guess I enjoy having cookbooks that also teach you the reasons behind the science.
The Stew that Takes the Cake
Now, in this cookbook, the section on beef stew is quite comprehensive. She gives a basic beef stew recipe and then many different twists to that basic. The one I’m writing about today has been one that I’ve been meaning to try for a while. The basic difference between this one and the basic is written right there in the title—this one contains tomatoes, orange zest and olives. And let me tell you right now, I may never go back to the basic recipe. This one takes the cake! It is THAT good.
I just made it for dinner tonight and I already cannot wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow (stews are one of those dishes that work well as leftovers as they taste even better the next day!). I told Nate after dinner that I wouldn’t mind eating this beef stew at least once a month (and we hardly eat beef so that’s really saying a lot).
I did adapt the recipe a little. Instead of using two slices of orange zest, I put my trusty Microplane grater to work and just zested up the whole orange and used it all. Trust me on this, it works beautifully!
And instead of using one cup of canned chopped tomatoes, I used one can (almost two cups) of WHOLE tomatoes that I crushed up with my hands before adding to the stew. I find that whole canned tomatoes taste a lot better than chopped tomatoes.
Other than that, I also added a little bit more garlic (you know me, I always do that).
In other aspects, I totally respected and followed Pam’s instructions. In the cut of beef, definitely stick to chuck. I’ve tried brisket and knuckle and they are just too tough or gristly. Chuck has just the right amount of marbling to give the meat tenderness when stewed over a long time. As for the wine, definitely use a full-bodied red wine. For this meal, I had an open bottle of Cabernet Merlot that worked perfectly.
Beef Stew with Tomatoes, Orange Zest and Olives Recipe
adapted from The Perfect Recipe by Pam Anderson
3 pounds chuck-eye roast , cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons Table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped coarse (about 2 cups)
3 or more medium cloves garlic , minced
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine (preferably full-bodied)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used water mixed with 1 Tbsp chicken bouillon)
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, with their juice, crushed
1 orange, zested (about 2 Tbsp fine orange zest)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 cup back olives (such as Kalamata), pitted
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (I omitted this)
1. If using oven, heat oven to 300 F.
2. Place beef cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in large nonreactive dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot; add beef to pot in two or three separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding remaining tablespoon of oil if needed. Remove meat and set aside.
4. Add onions to now empty pot; sauté until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to sauté about 30 seconds longer.
5. Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to kettle.
7. Add stock, tomatoes, orange zest, bay leaves, and herbes de Provence; bring to simmer.
8. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven or leave on stove top over low heat.
9. Simmer until meat is just tender, about 2 hours.
10. Remove stew from oven, add olives, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. (Can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days.)
11. Stir in parsley, adjust seasonings, and serve over polenta, mashed potatoes or pasta.
Oven Cooking: Go Regular or Go Dutch
The one thing I wish I could have done that I couldn’t here in Malaysia, is use the oven to cook the stew. My oven here is really small and it’s not even a “real” oven. It’s a combi microwave and even though I’ve successfully baked in it, it is way too small to fit my dutch oven. So I had to cook my stew on the stove top.
It still worked well except that I’d have to stir the pot every so often to ensure that the stew was evenly cooking as the heat was one directional instead of all around. Use an oven if you are able, but if not, the stove top method works too.
As for browning the meat, make sure that you don’t crowd the meat. My dutch oven is medium sized and I had to cook my beef in 3 batches to get them all browned. Don’t try to cram it into 2 batches. It really makes a difference.
Once I tried to add more meat and all I got were gray colored meats because the meat steamed instead of browned. That nice brown color is essential to building good flavor as well as eye appeal. And be patient, the browning portion is actually the most time consuming bit.
Once that’s all done, the rest of the stew comes together quickly. Yes, you will have to wait for two hours for the stew to simmer and meld but that is time that you don’t have to do anything. You could get other things done while your meal is cooking.
If you’ve never tried making a stew with orange zest, you absolutely have to try this one. You will never go back. The zest makes the sauce so addictive that Nate had to literally hold himself back from getting thirds and fourths. I served this with spiral pasta (and it was perfect) though the recommended starch was polenta (something I cannot find easily here). I think it would also work well with mashed potatoes. You decide…