Slow oven roasting is the key to the great flavor of this beef stew.
Slow Roasted Flavor
The secret to this beef stew’s marvelous flavor is the slow roasting.
This one’s cooked in the oven. That may seem a bit unusual since most of us have been making stew for years on the stove top, slow cooker or pressure cooker.
All those methods are very good, but there’s something about the oven’s dry heat that brings out this beef stew’s best flavors. They meld slowly and there’s some reduction in the gravy even though it’s cooked covered. If you’ve made reduction sauces, you know how good they taste because the flavors intensify.
Now a word about the gravy and the browning–you don’t dredge the meat in seasoned flour in this recipe. Instead, you whisk the flour into the wine. That way it’s distributed better and there’s absolutely no lumps in your gravy (which makes itself!).
Cast Iron Is Best
If you have a cast iron dutch oven, this is definitely the recipe you want to cook in it. It really doesn’t matter if your pot is standard “seasoned” cast iron or one that has the enamel coating. Because of the even way cast iron heats, it will cook this stew to a turn.
I cooked this in my new Le Creuset 7 quart dutch oven. I’m telling you it is really worth the money. I used to keel over at the prices, but I finally broke down and bought one. It’s worth every penny.
However, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a pot for the stew to come out perfectly. Even inexpensive cast iron does a great job. The only caveat here is that the pot must have a cover, but I assume all dutch ovens do.
Fresh Bay Leaves
I recently began using fresh bay leaves. The British seem to use the fresh variety. My sister, who lives in Surrey, even has a laurel tree. I didn’t believe her when she said fresh bay is far superior to the dried kind. She was right!
This recipe calls for three bay leaves and that is the amount for fresh. If you cannot get the fresh ones, use four of the dried ones.
I find the fresh bay in those little clam shell packages in the herb section of my local store. If you’re not lucky enough to have a tree, that’s where you’ll find them and trust me, the taste is far superior!
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- 3 lbs stew beef
- 2 tbs oil (plus a bit extra if necessary)
- 1 cup red wine (I used port)
- 6 tbs flour
- 2 cups beef stock (see NOTES)
- 2 cups carrots, cut in large chunks
- 4 large potatoes, cut in large chunks
- 1 cup pearl onions
- 2 tbs brown sugar (optional)
- 3 fresh bay leaves (see NOTES)
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme -OR- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 cups fresh small button mushrooms -OR- regular size cut in half
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Heat oil in a large (6-8 qt) oven-proof dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown well on all sides. You may have to do this in batches and some extra oil may be necessary.
- While the last batch of meat is browning, place the flour in a medium bowl and whisk in the wine gradually so that no lumps form; set aside.
- Add the browned meat back to the dutch oven. Whisk the wine mixture again so it’s well combined, then add it to the meat. Stir until it begins to thicken. Then, stir in the beef stock. Stir in the brown sugar (if using), the bay leaves and the thyme.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the carrots, potatoes and pearl onions.
- Cover and bake for 2-2½ hours, or until meat is tender. Add the mushrooms and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
If you like more gravy with the stew, add more beef stock--a reader added 2 more cups (see comments)
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