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09/20/2019

~ Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes ~

IMG_4543My mom, like all cold-climated Eastern Europeans, made great beef barley- and beef noodle-  and beef vegetable- soup. Mom made great beef stew and Euro-style Hungarian goulash too (not to be confused with the American-style ground beef and macaroni type goulash).  As a card-carrying carnivore, I enjoy these hearty beefy concoctions as much, if not more than, any kind of chicken soup.  That said, when it comes to beef vs. chicken soups and stews in general, one must start by recognizing that a strong-flavored meat like beef requires bold-flavored herbs and seasonings, as opposed to soups or stews made with mild-flavored poultry which do not.  Past that, while the best soups and stews are indeed made with homemade beef stock or chicken stock, I'm not going to call the food police on anyone who chooses to use the store-bought alternative -- I understand you're busy (who isn't) and I refuse to criticize on this point.  

IMG_4560Let's begin by discussing the difference between soup & stew:

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_4561Old-Fashioned Eastern-European-Style Beef Stew:

IMG_4457For prepping/dredging the beef:

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, not stewing beef, from 1, 3-3 1/2 pound chuck roast or chuck steak

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

6  tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing all-purpose flour for sauces and gravy

For browning the dredged beef:

3  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

all of the dredged-in-seasoned-flour beef

For preparing the stew, listed in order of when they get added:

2  tablespoons salted butter

8-10  ounces 3/4"-1" diced yellow or sweet onion

8-10  ounces 3/4"-1" diced white button mushroom caps

3/4  cup port wine, for deglazing pan

all of the browned beef cubes

6  cups beef stock, preferably homemade or high-quality unsalted store-bought stock

4  tablespoons tomato paste, about 1/2 of a 6-ounce can

2  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  whole bay leaves

"the seasonings", aka, 1 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, dried rosemary leaves, dried thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1  pound peeled and 3/4"-1" coined carrots

8  ounces 1/2" sliced celery stalks

1  10-ounce bag finely-shredded green cabbage

1 1/2-2  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" cubed gold potatoes

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

IMG_4444 IMG_4444 IMG_4444 IMG_4468 IMG_4468~Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the beef as directed, discarding any large fat pockets you will find along the way.  To dredge the beef, place the 6 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Add the beef and toss to coat the beef cubes in the seasoned flour on all sides.

IMG_4465 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4486~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt the butter into the oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add the dredged beef cubes.  Using a large slotted spatula to keep the meat moving around, sauté until ever-so-slightly-browned on all side and swimming in a flavorful gravy, about 6-8 minutes.  Use the slotted spatula to transfer the beef to a plate, leaving all of the flavorful brown fond in the pot.  Set beef aside.

IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487~Step 3.  Add the diced onion and mushroom caps to the pot.  Give them a thorough stir and continue to sauté, over medium- medium-high heat until onion is soft and translucent but not browned or browning, and mushrooms have exuded about three-quarters of their moisture and earthy flavor into the mixture, 6-8 minutes -- oh yum.

IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501~Step 4.  Add the port wine.  Using the spatula, continue to sauté, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with spatula until all of the luscious brown fond has released itself into the mixture, 1-2 minutes. Continue to simmer another 1-2 minutes, perhaps 3.  Don't rush it.  Return the beef to the pot. Add and stir in the beef stock, granulated beef bouillon, bay leaves and seasonings.  Reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover pot, and continue to simmer for 1 hour.

IMG_4517 IMG_4517 IMG_4517 IMG_4524~Step 5.  During the last 15-20 minutes of the simmering process, peel and dice the potatoes as directed.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add and stir in the coined carrots, sliced celery, shredded cabbage and diced potatoes.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, reduce heat to a gentle steady simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered for 45-60 minutes, until carrots, celery and potatoes are all perfectly cooked through.  Remove from heat, cover pot and allow to steep for 1 hour prior to serving, or, overnight in the refrigerator -- which renders it ridiculously good.  

Garnish w/minced parsley & serve immediately:

IMG_4541No need to call me to the dinner table twice:

IMG_4553Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Potatoes & Carrots:  Recipe yields 5 quarts beef stew.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 1-gallon food storage bag; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; large slotted spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcd8fbfd970bCook's Note: Every time my mother had a meaty ham bone in her hand, she'd make "ham and cabbage".  It is a brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper.  I grew up loving cabbage and I adore this "boiled dinner".  ~ My Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage & Potato Soup ~ is yet another example of Eastern European comfort food.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

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