A hearty bowl of stew is the ultimate winter comfort food. You can learn how to make good stews if you follow a few basic cooking steps and understand why stew must be cooked the way it does. There is a systematic process for making good stew and deviating from the steps means making bad stew.
This hub will explain the step-by-step process for making good stew and then share a really great hearty winter stew recipe for you to try. The recipe is a variation on classic beef stew I call hearty Shepherd Stew. It combines several good meats with a variety of tasty fall vegetables.
The steps for making good stew
· Brown the meat
· Sauté the aromatic veggies
· Deglaze the pan to create great flavor
· Combine the ingredients and cook low and slow till fork tender
How to make stew – Stew is not soup
First, you need to understand that stew is not soup. You can make good soup by throwing the ingredients into your slow cooker, walk away and come back a few hours later to eat. You can make stew in the crock-pot but not just with the crock-pot.
How to Choose Vegetables for Stew
Use firm, slow cooking vegetables in your stews. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips and root turnips work well. So does firm squash varieties like butternut and acorn squash. Fennel, leeks and scallions add lots of flavor and texture to your stews.
Any soup or stew needs to have the holy trinity of culinary art-onions, celery and bell pepper. Fresh garlic and many mushroom varieties work well in stews and soups. Button mushrooms, shitakes and Portobello are delicious and blend well with the flavors of the other stew ingredients.
How to make stew – Preparing Meat
The first step in making your stew is to cut the meat into cubes about a half-inch square. Be sure to trim away any excess fat and gristle from the stew meat to keep the stew from being overly greasy. Some cuts of beef or lamb have a shiny membrane on them. Cut this away as well because it will make the meat tougher and hard to eat.
Sprinkle flour or corn starch onto the cut meat and shake it around to get an even coating. The starchy coating will brown quickly and seal the juices inside the meat so that it will cook up fork tender. The meat needs to brown quickly in a really hot pan. A cast iron skillet or a wok works great for browning the meat. Put a couple of Tablespoons of frying oil into the pan and brown the meat on all sides.
How to Sauté the Aromatic Stew Vegetables
After browning, set the meat aside for a minute to rest and sauté the onions, celery and other aromatic vegetables in the pan. Let them sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes to release their flavor into the pan. After the vegetables sauté, add the meat back to the pan, return the pan to the heat and deglaze the pan with wine, stock or a combination of the two.
When the stock or wine hits the hot pan it reacts with the hot pan to release all the flavor trapped in the pan and releases all those tasty bits that stick to the bottom of the pan when you brown the meat. All this flavor goes into your stew to make it oh, so tasty and good.
How to Make Stew – Combine it all and Cook Slowly
Put the sautéed vegetables, stock and meat into a Dutch oven or slow cooker. Add the rest of the vegetables and more stock if needed. If using a Dutch oven, bring the stew to a boil and then reduce the temperature to simmer the stew until it is tender.
The starches in the vegetables and roux from the deglazing will make thick gravy as the stew cooks so that no extra thickening should be necessary. Slow cooking will pretty much reduce the first vegetables in your stew to mush. A good tactic is to wait to put most of the vegetable like potatoes, carrots and such in after the stew has cooked for a while. Add them to the stew about an hour to an hour and a half before you plan to serve the stew for tender but firm veggies in your stew.
Shepherd Stew Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, cubed
- 1 pound of lamb shoulder, cubed
- 1 pound thick bacon, cut into small bits
- ½ cup Andouille sausage, cut into small pieces
- one large onion, chopped
- two stalks celery, chopped
- 1 bag frozen stew vegetables
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ½ cup chopped button mushrooms
- ¼ cup diced green pepper
- ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
- ¼ cup chopped turnip root
- 6 potatoes, quartered
- One bay leaf
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp thyme
- 2 T flour
- 3T oil
- 2 T oil
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups beef broth
· Place the cut up meats into a large bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Sift the flour over the meat and toss to coat.
· Pour 3 T oil into a large Dutch oven and bring to high heat
· Cook the bacon in the oil till crisp
· Add the meat to the oil and brown on all sides
· Remove the meat from the pan and add 2 T oil to the pan
· Sauté the onion, bell pepper , garlic and celery for about 5 minutes on medium heat
· Deglaze the hot pan with the wine and stir to release the tasty bits from the bottom
· Add the beef stock to the pot
· Add the meat and all the spices to the Dutch oven and add enough water to cover the stew mix
· Bring stew to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for one hour and then add the remaining vegetables to the stew. Cook for another 45-60 minutes and remove from heat to serve. The meat should be fork tender and the vegetables completely cooked.