When my mother was a child, her mother always made her beef stew on cold nights. My mother grew up as a military brat, travelling the world and moving every year.
She always spoke of her time in Minot, North Dakota. The winters were brutally cold. Her mother’s stew was one of the things that got her through the winter.
She passed the tradition of making stew on cold nights on to me and my sisters. I never liked vegetables as a kid, but it didn’t matter if they were in her stew. It was delicious!
Her stew was a warming, comforting elixir that signaled the start of my favorite time of the year. Winter. Winter brings all the things children love: the holidays, a break from school, and if I was lucky, the elusive snow day in Grayson County.
Stew is also one of those recipes that can help you clean out your fridge. It is a relatively easy dish that is hard to mess up! Even after culinary school and more than a decade of professional cooking, it is still one of my go-to dishes to make at home.
The following recipe is a guideline to follow for your stew. Just a guideline. Be creative! Have some mushrooms that need to be used? Slice those up and throw them in. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. You will learn more by those mistakes and increase your culinary IQ in the process!
My mom’s recipe for winter stew:
• 3 pounds boneless beef chuck/stew meat, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 medium yellow onions peeled and minced
• 1/4 cup all-purpose, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 6 cloves garlic,
• 2 cups dry red wine (if you don’t want wine in your stew then sub
• 2 cups beef broth
• 2 cups water
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks on a diagonal
• 4 stalks of celery, cut into a small dice
• 2 cans of stewed tomatoes
• 1 pound small white boiling potatoes (baby yukons), cut in half
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Brown the meat in, turning with tongs. Make sure that the meat has a nice brown crust before rotating the meat. Add the onions and garlic; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the brown bits from bottom of the pan, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour. Stir with wooden spoon until the flour is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine, beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid, transfer to the preheated oven, and cook for 2 hours.
3. Remove the pot from the oven and add the carrots, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. Cover and place back in oven for about an hour more, or until the vegetables are cooked, the broth is thickened, and the meat is tender. Fish out the bay leaf and discard, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
•This recipe can also be made in a crock pot or instapot with minor alterations in cooking procedure.
Joanna Bryant is the executive chef for the Grayson College Culinary Arts program.