The Best Beef Stew Ever

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Best Beef Stew

Best Beef Stew

Beef Stew. The mere words conjure up warm, soothing moments from my childhood. I remember the rich, thick, heaping dish of goodness mom would serve me as a child, often when the weather got cooler. The chunks of potato would have added just the right amount of starchy texture to the tomato-based sauce, yet still be firm to the bite. The carrot rounds added sweetness, and the onions their caramelized, redolent goodness. The pieces of beef would be a joyful revelation – perfectly braised, delicious nuggets of beefy flavor. The occasional piece of celery would be met with disdain, but I would later understand the sharp, crunchy goodness it brought.

Yes, mom’s stew is hard to beat!

Over the years, I have tried to make Mom’s Beef Stew. And over the years, I’ve failed. One legendary attempt involved me calling her no less than six times during the process. “…but how long do you cook the onions?” “How much water do I add?” “When do you add the carrots?” The result was edible at best, but it was never….quite….mom’s!

The next day, when I talked to her about how I thought it was almost, but not quite “hers,” she casually said, “well, did you add the _____ ??”  Well, no, I had not. Why? BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T TELL ME ABOUT IT!! “Oh, yes,” she said, “you have to add _____.” Secret in hand, I continued on my quest to make Mom’s Beef Stew. Years would pass, but I would never quite replicate what I knew to be Mom’s Beef Stew.

Just last week, after a cold snap passed through town, I felt an urge to make beef stew. I detoured on the way home from work to get the ingredients. I cut the beef into large pieces, seasoned it well, dredged it in flour, then browned the pieces in oil. I peeled and cut up the potatoes, carrots and celery, adding them after the beef had simmered for just the right amount of time. The aroma was wonderful as it wafted through the house. I painstakingly skimmed the fat from the pot, then parceled it into containers and chilled it overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, my sister took a container of the stew to my mom and dad. They all enjoyed it that night. Was it exactly like mom’s? No, it wasn’t. But that didn’t matter.

Mom has taught me to cook, not only by a list of ingredients, but by example. It didn’t matter if I had this spice or that vegetable, or even that secret ingredient. It was all about the intent. Cooking for those you love was all that mattered.

Mom called me to tell me how good my stew tasted. This was all I needed to hear. This was the best beef stew ever.


Best Beef Stew

3 pounds boneless beef blade or chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2”-2” cubes
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use, more as needed
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 can (28 ounce size) peeled tomatoes, crushed
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½-inch coins
2 stalks celery, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
Fresh parsley sprigs, as garnish
Fresh rosemary, as garnish

Season beef cubes liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and set aside. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large Dutch oven. Brown beef in batches, turning after a couple of minutes to brown evenly. Remove cubes to dish and repeat with additional oil as needed.

Heat oven to 275°.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pot. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until onion is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Take care that garlic does not burn. Return beef and any accumulated drippings to pot. Stir in wine, beef broth, water, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, and paprika. Reduce heat to low. Cover and bake in oven until beef is just tender, about 2 hours.

Add potatoes, carrots, and celery. Stir gently, cover and continue cooking until beef and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Skim any fat from surface, check seasonings and serve immediately. (Stew may be refrigerated upon completion; remove fat from surface before heating to serve)