More great stuff from my mother—this time the most flavorful, rich, tender beef stew ever. Her recipe’s a combo of favorite techniques from The Perfect Recipe’s classic version, plus enhancements from Mark Bittman’s beef daube: salt pork, tomato paste, lots of garlic, orange zest, olives. Then also our friend Mary Hughes’s scrumptious roasted tomatoes, which my mother makes in big batches and keeps on hand in the freezer. Fabulous!
She likes to let the stew sit in the fridge overnight between the first and second cooking or after it’s all done. If you’re waiting to do the second cooking, add the carrots before putting it in the fridge. Letting all the flavors combine over several hours makes it extra-good. Long-ish list of ingredients but so, so worth it…
2–4 Tbsp olive or canola oil or a mix
3 1/2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes (You can trim the thick fat now or later; see below.)
2–3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
8–10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2–3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (you can use gluten-free if you want)
1–2 Tbsp tomato paste
1–2 cups good red wine
1–2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)
2 Tbsp orange zest, chopped
About 1 cup chopped pitted olives, preferably niçoise (kalamata okay)
A chunk of salt pork tied with twine or 2-3 slices pancetta, chopped
About 2 cups of roasted tomatoes (recipe below)
1–2 Tbsp fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, chopped or as bouquet garnish
1 bay leaf
2 cups or more of carrots, chopped into bite-sized disks
Optional: 1 or 2 small turnips or parsnips, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 package frozen peas, thawed
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 300. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Sauté the beef in batches until all sides are brown. (You can leave some of the outside fat on for this step, then trim it after. It’s a little bit of a pain because the meat is hot, but the added fat in the pan is good for the next steps.) Remove the beef and set aside.
3. Add onions to the pan and sauté until soft, about 5–8 minutes. Add the flour, stir and cook until the flour’s a little brown but not burned. Add the tomato paste and red wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan. After a couple minutes, add the chicken broth. Stir and let the mixture thicken a little.
4. In a large dutch oven or casserole with lid, combine the beef, onions, garlic and liquids, including pan scrapings. Add the salt pork or pancetta now, plus the orange zest, olives, roasted tomatoes, fresh rosemary and thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer in the oven for about three hours. Check periodically to be sure it’s simmering, not boiling hard.
5. Steam the carrots until almost tender (plus the other root vegetables, if using) and add them to the stew. Here’s where you can refrigerate overnight if you like.
6. Simmer for about another hour, or until the meat is super-tender and the carrots and root vegetables are cooked. Remove the salt pork, if you used it, and the bay leaf. Stir in the peas and fresh parsley at the end.
Mary’s Roasted Tomatoes:
Mom says, “I do this with my garden tomatoes and then freeze them in bags. Roma tomatoes work great because they don’t have a lot of liquid. But you can do it with any nice fresh flavorful tomatoes.” This gives you proportions, but adjust accordingly for however many tomatoes you’ve got. You can also just roast them plain.
3–4 cloves garlic, chopped
Small bunch of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Good balsamic vinegar
Good extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the tomatoes in half or quarters, depending on size, and spread them on a baking sheet with low sides. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and basil, and drizzle with balsamic and olive oil.
2. Roast about 20 minutes. Turn them over and roast another 5–10 minutes. They’re done when they’re a little bit wilted, a little bit brown, and there’s still plenty of juice in the pan. (If the juice dries up and gets brown, you lose some of the nice flavor.) Cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the tomatoes themselves, so keep checking them as they cook. If they don’t get really brown that’s okay, too.
3. Freeze in bags or containers in amounts you’d like to use in stews and soups. They add delicious flavor to all kinds of dishes.