Pretty much everyone who knows my family knows that my husband Shawn hates onions … or at least he says he does. The truth? He doesn’t like the texture of onions, but he does appreciate the flavor that a sweet onion can add to a dish. Don’t tell him I told you though, he’s very sensitive about it. (I jest. He reads my blog. I am sure to hear about this paragraph very soon).
Beef stew? It’s one of those dishes that absolutely needs to have onions in it. I love big bits of onion, personally, but everyone knows that life and marriage is about compromise, so over the years, I have tried different methods of incorporating onions: dried onions (from the spice aisle), finely chopped onion, even onion free … but I finely found the method that works for us.
My stew starts with a puree of onion, carrot and potato, fresh from the food processor. What I love about this is that it adds the flavors while also thickening the stew a bit (you can thicken it more, if you want, but you totally don’t have to). It’s important that the onion is a sweet onion though. The flavor of yellow onions just isn’t as good for this. Oh, and beware, the puree is known to make your eyes water a bit. Small price, I say.
Next comes the beef. I buy natural grass-fed stew meat, usually from a local farm because it’s fresh and very tender. One of my local grocery stores also sells a decent version of this. However, use whatever type of stew beef you prefer. As for amount, I usually add about 1 1/3 lbs, but if you want a meatier stew, make it 2 lbs. Once the meat is browned and mixed up with the puree, I deglaze the pan with red wine. Choose a good red wine that you enjoy. Also, know that different varieties will add different sub-flavors … for instance, merlot adds a slight peppery flavor while a cabernet can add a warm richness. Use one that you like (and avoid cooking wines!).
Finally, water, seasonings and veggies are added. The stew cooks for about an hour total, from beginning to end, and then it’s ready to thicken or serve. The rich stew is a family favorite here. Paige could (or rather does) drink the stew liquid. Will can’t get enough of the veggies. Shawn is sure to go back for seconds … and usually take leftovers for lunch the next day.
Yes, it’s that good.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, peeled
4 potatoes, washed and 1 peeled (I use either Yukon gold or russet)
1 sweet onion, peeled and ends removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 lb stew meat
1 cup good red wine (Merlot or Pinot Noir are my favs)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 cups water
salt and pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
dash balsamic vinegar
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat.
Combine 1 carrot, 1 potato, the onion and the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add to the hot oil and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Push the puree to one side of the pan and add the beef. Brown lightly on all sides and then mix with the puree. Let cook for a few minutes (it’s about 10 minutes of cooking from the point of adding the beef to the next step).
While the puree and beef is cooking, slice the remaining 3 carrots and cube the remaining 3 potatoes.
Add the red wine to the pan and stir well, scrapping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the water. Stir in the salt and pepper, paprika and oregano. Add the carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes, stirring well to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Stir in a dash of balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately, or thicken **, if desired.
** You don’t have to thicken this, but if you want to, combine equal amounts of cornstarch and water and add to the completed stew (about 2 tbsp of each works beautifully).