Sticky, Beefy, Comfort Stew
When the weather starts cooling down (and in the case of Hong Kong, that means dropping to the high 20s!) I start dreaming about cozy, comforting winter dishes. Back in my hometown of Vancouver, the azure skies are ablaze with the glowing ambers of autumn, and my friends are gearing up for pumpkin patch trips and corn maze fun. Me, from tropical Hong Kong, still join in the autumn festivities by dreaming up comfort foods that are probably best eaten while snuggling under a classic Hudson’s Bay blanket. Yesterday, in celebration of the changing seasons, I slow-cooked this sticky comfort beef stew to conjure up my own version of North American autumn.
This recipe is very similar to my beef bourguignon version with the exception that I’ve added a lot more vegetables to the mix. I hope you, and your family, enjoy this recipe as much as our have.
What you’ll need (serves 4):
- 1 lb stewing beef, either shin or brisket
- 1 celery
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic
- a handful of pearl onions
- 1/2 bottle red wine
- 2 cups hot beef broth
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tbls flour
- 1/2 tbls paprika
- 1/2 tbls tomato puree
- salt & pepper
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 hours
Pre-heat oven to 200 celsius.
The fundamental building blocks of a flavourful stew – hearty vegetables. As a flavour base, I use a classic trio of vegetables – carrots, celery and onion to form what the French call “mirepoix”.
Heat up the beef broth so that it is piping hot when you’ve finished with prep work.
“Roll cut” the carrots to get these robust shapes. This will ensure the vegetable holds up during the cooking process.
Roughly cut the onions. I use an entire garlic bulb for this dish – don’t worry, it won’t be overly pungent. The garlic will turn soft and sweet with the slow cookin’.
I like to dust the beef in a thin layer of flour. I find that it keeps the meat juicier, and the flour also help thicken the stew. I love paprika with robust meats, so I’ve sifted some dried paprika into the flour so the dusting can be a 2-in-1 job.
A lazy cook‘s way is to put the flour / paprika in a plastic bag, and tumble the beef inside to evenly coat each chunk. This means no mess, no clean-up!
I’ve chosen large chunks of beef brisket for this stew.
After you’ve evenly coated each ruby cube of beef with flour / paprika, heat a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat with a bit of oil, and lightly brown the meat. This helps seal in the moisture and give the beef extra flavour. I love my 4.5L Le Creuset for this.
After a few minutes, the meat should have taken on a golden crust. The idea here is not to fully cook the meat, but to just sear the outside. Now add in the onions and garlic. You might find the pot sticking a bit at this point, but don’t worry, we will deglaze with red wine shortly.
Add in the carrots and celery, and pour in the half bottle of red wine.
Pour in the hot beef broth. It’s important to use hot stock as you don’t want to bring down the cooking temperature with cold broth. Add in the bay leaves and thyme.
Add the tomato puree, salt & pepper. Mix well. You should taste the stew at this point to adjust salt levels, as it really depends on how savoury the beef broth is.
Bring the stew to a gentle boil. If you have an oven, this is the time to clamp a lid on the pot and transfer the whole lot to slowly cook at 200 degrees celsius.
If you don’t have an oven, decrease the heat to low, clamp a lid on, and let the stew slowly simmer. For stovetop cooking, you might have to come back periodically to check on water levels and make sure the contents are not sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you are cooking with the oven, you can pretty much just forget about it for 2 hours.
During this time, you can endure the soul-retching task of peeling the tiny pearl onions. The filmy onion skins and tiny portions are truly testaments to the virtues of patience. Having said that, I do love the whimsy of these little onions – each one seems to be wearing a mini wizard’s hat.
After 1.5hours – 2 hours of slow cooking, the stew should have thickened and reduced down. Test the meat to see if it’s tender enough. The carrots should have also turned soft and sugary.
If all the above is happening, then add in the pearl onions. I also saved the tender tips of the celery to throw in closer to the end of the cooking process since they are much more delicate than the robust celery stalks. Cook for an additional 20 minutes so the pearl onions get sweet and caramelized.
Voila! Now, isn’t that autumn in a bowl? The beefy stew should now be sticky and rich. The vegetables should be sweet and yielding, and the beef melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Plate & serve! Bon Appetit!