There are times in life when nothing is more satisfying then a nice bowl of chunky beef stew, especially if its topped with a delicious layer of gooey melty cheese.
I know most of these times coincide with the cold winter weather we are plagued with here in the Midwest, but some times it just so happens to strike during nice spring weather as well. Last week, I was struck down with a head cold and my sore throat was calling out for a nice bowl of stew. So despite the 60 degree temperatures, and Ira’s grousing about wanting spring food, I cooked up a nice hot pot of deliciousness. As always, when the mood hits, this dish hits the spot!
Here’s my secret recipe with a SPECIAL ingredient sure to make your next beef stew a delicious and healthier dish!
Savory Beef Stew
- 1 1/2 – 2 lb beef chunks. (My Mom always says chuck roast makes the best stew)
- 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped small
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tbs dried thyme
- 3-4 large red potatoes, skins on
- 3-4 large carrots
- 1 c. pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
- 1 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
- salt and pepper to taste
- if necessary, 1-2 tbs flour to thicken
Prepare your Beef: You can buy pre-cut beef chunks, usually called stew meat at the store for pretty cheap. However, if you have the money, its worth it to spend the few more dollars on chuck roast and chop it yourself. It is a better cut of meat and its much more tender and will cook down better. Cut the meat into about 1″ cubes.
Stew the Beef: Place your beef chunks, bay leaves and dried thyme in a stew pot and add water until all the beef is covered. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Simmer your beef for about 60 – 90 minutes.
Prepare the Special Ingredient: Here is my secret ingredient, are you ready?? Sweet potato! I know it sounds basic, but this is a surefire way to make a great stew. Cut the sweet potato in small chunks, 1/2″ or less. After the meat has been stewing for about an hour/hour and half, add the sweet potato (its better to let the meat cook longer, but if you’re short on time, you can cut it back to an hour). Why is this my special step? Because we’re adding the sweet potato early to cook down into the stew. It will act as our thickener as well as give a nice sweet flavor to counter balance the savory meat flavor! And, sweet potatos are a super food, so they’re really good for you. Let cook for 30 or so more minutes.
Add the rest of the vegetables: Cut the potatoes (leave the skins on for extra vitamins) and carrots into 1″ chunks. Add these as well as the pearl onions and cook for another 45-60 minutes. Add the peas at the end and let cook for 5-10.
Season to taste: Season using a generous helping of salt and pepper. Maybe 1 tsp each. Start out with smaller amounts and keep adding until the flavor is at its best. Remember, you can always add more, but its difficult to take out too much.
Short Cut: As the name suggests, stew needs to stew, which is time consuming. The longer it cooks, the more the ingredients will start to fall apart, thickening the stew naturally. If you are in a hurry and can’t let it stew for the total 3 hours (for all the steps in the recipe) you can cut back on any of the above mentioned steps. You will have a soupier stew. You can quickly thicken it by adding 1-2 Tbs of flour or corn starch and allowing it to cook into your stew for about 15 minutes. This will help produce a thicker more stew-like base.
Serve: I like to serve my stew with a layer of melted cheese on top, as you can see in the pic above. Using an oven safe bowl, place a slice of cheese over your hot stew. Place your stew with cheese under a lit broiler for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and ready to serve. Yum! Eat up.
**In my opinion, this dish is good for all times of year, especially if you’re sick!