The fourth installment in this month's experimental recipe project, Operation: Expand Horizons, was a creation from the venerable America's Test Kitchen for beef stew. I already have a good recipe for beef stew in the repertoire, but when we watched the episode of this version being made, we got quite curious (and hungry). So here it goes.
This recipe turned out just okay, especially disappointing considering the expense of the meat and the time it took. It's not going to replace my regular stew, especially since it's terribly time-consuming. Granted, much of the time is non-active oven-cooking time, but still. My regular old stew is better, in our opinions, and takes less than a third of the time. Plus, it cooks on the stove.
The cooking process for this recipe was rife with substitutions and omissions, some less advised than others. Use your best judgment in your own kitchen.
I wound up using sardines instead of anchovies despite the advice of foodies on various websites, since the amount was so small as to not matter, and I didn't want to go back to the store for one damn can of anchovies when I already had Spanish sardines in olive oil (the good kind, not mustard packed cheapies).
I couldn't find chuck eye roast and used arm roast instead, which yielded tender meat overall, but with some dryness. My husband doesn't like pearl onions, so I left those out. There are sliced onions already in the stew, but the cooking process renders them into the base of the sauce, which was just fine. I added a palmful of minced fresh chives before serving for a punch of oniony flavor.
He's also not a huge fan of peas, so I only used half a cup instead of a whole cup. I also left out the addition of softened gelatin, which is instructed to be added at the end to thicken the liquid. The stew was more than thick enough already.
Overall, the stew was not really impressive. My husband said he definitely likes my old version better, which has a thinner tastier broth, pearl barley, and cabbage.
Best Beef Stew
Serves 6 to 8
Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
4 anchovy fillets , finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1
1/2-inch pieces (see note and step by step below)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion , halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2
4 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine (see note)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 ounces salt pork , rinsed of excess salt (see note)
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions , thawed
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen peas , thawed
Table salt and ground black pepper
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.
2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.
3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
4. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in pearl onions; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve.