At the beginning of this week I extolled the joys of owning a Dutch oven. They are resilient, multitasking tools that can be used for dishes like the rustic garlic chicken, homemade baked beans, or a moist flavorful roast beef. They are also the best pot to use when makes a rich stew because they hold heat well which allows for the slow and steady cooking necessary to simmer tough meats and veggies to melt-in-your mouth perfection. Furthermore, the heavy bottom of your Dutch oven creates even heat so you can sear the meat, a necessary step if you want a truly rich and flavorful stew.
When buying your meat, you’ll want to pick tougher pieces of meat from the shoulder (often referred to as chuck) or the round (aka the cow butt). While this meat is often considered tough, the slow cooking process will break down those tough fibers and make it butter soft. You can make your stew using approximately 2 pounds of beef, lamb, or venison; I prefer using a mix of venison and beef because of the depth of flavor it creates.
As a quick note, stews are very versatile. The recipe below is really just a road map and you can often use whatever is in your fridge, such as turnips, a can of stewed tomatoes, or potatoes. I normally use barley in this recipe, and that is what I list in the recipe, but as I was going through the closet I noticed half used boxes of quinoa and kasha and decided to use those instead. An easy and flexible way to clean out the pantry!
2 lbs red meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 parsnips, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup red wine or apple cider (for deglazing the pot)
2 cups vegetables stock
2 cups beef stock
1-2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt & Pepper
1) Drizzle olive oil in Dutch oven placed over medium-high heat. Sear each side of the meat in small batches, each side of the meat is done when it lifts easily from the pot. Remove the meat as you finish searing each piece and set aside. This is going to take time, but remember it’s worth it!
2) Lower the heat and add more olive oil to the pot. Sauté the onions and celery until translucent. Add carrots and parsnips to the pot and continue sauté, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove this mixture from the pot.
3) Add mushrooms and cook until slightly browned. Make a well in the middle of the mushrooms and add garlic and cook until fragrant, only about 1 minute.
4) Pour red wine into the pot and use a stiff rubber spatula to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot and mix with the wine. Let simmer over low heat until the wine has reduced by half or been mostly absorbed by the mushrooms.
5) Return the meat and veggies to the Dutch oven and add both stocks to the pot.
6) Add bay leaves and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.
7) Add enough water so that there is about half an inch of water covering the ingredients.
8) Cover the Dutch oven and let simmer over low heat for about an hour.
9) Add barley and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until barley is tender.