Hearty Beef Stew

by Andie Mitchell on October 7, 2010

The other night I had dinner with my grandfather. Not in a restaurant, not in his house. Not even on the same coast of the country. Instead we dined by telephone.

My grandfather has always lived about a thousand miles away. Tucked into a sand-toned, stucco-sided condo on the shore of Myrtle Beach. Two decades ago, the day he retired, he packed up his favorite Dockers, his beloved maroon silk robe, his extensive VHS collection, told Nana she’d need at least three housecoats, and together they headed south in their powder blue Camry from Massachusetts. ‘Enjoy the blizzards, suckers,‘ might have been their sentiment, or something to that effect. Both of them content to never shovel, salt, or slip on ice again.

For the past twenty years, the majority of my life, we’ve connected during humid summers in South Carolina and bi-weekly sparks along telephone lines. We’re still a phone call away. I imagine we could even skype if either of us were so technologically inclined. One time I mentioned to Papa that if he had a computer, we could email. He told me he had no time to be ‘monkey-ing around on that inter-whats-it,’ and then told me a story about the war for one hour and forty five minutes.

So when I call him, usually on Sunday afternoons, there’s a comfort to the predictability of his existence down south. I don’t need skype to show me that he’s sitting in the same chenille recliner, the cushions custom molded to his 83 year old form. He’s wearing the same maroon silk robe, and doing the same thing he always does at 2pm (his time) on a Sunday. Eating dinner.

This past Sunday, I joined him. Though, since it was technically afternoon, I ate lunch.

“What are you having, Papa?”

“Oh boy, you wouldn’t believe what they have now up at Kroger. A beef stew that would knock.your. socks.right.off!! It comes in a can, and I believe the woman who makes it is named Denise Moore.”

“Papa I think it’s Dinty Moore.” For the record he didn’t hear me. Denise-Dinty, tomato-tomahto. It doesn’t matter.

I should have told him to consider calling the Dinty Moore marketing team to film a testimonial of his wild amazement at the decadence inside a 15 oz can. I’d guess he’s the only soul willing to go on record positively declaring canned beef stew “somethin’ else!”

I digress.

So we dined. Papa with his bowl of Dinty Moore beef stew, and me with my peanut butter and fluff sandwich. Who was dining more finely is up for debate. Though Papa probably had his glass of red, upstaging my Boku by at least 50% in the class department.

We talked. About movies, about the news, about my brother’s upcoming wedding, about our mutual reverence for retirement, the days when they made khaki pants to last…how cold we are all the time. The usual.

The thing I love about him is this: he’s a riot. And not solely in the way that I’m laughing at him and his mid-eighties antics, but more in the way of his unique dry wit. A combination of equal parts intelligence and wisdom mixed with two parts impatience and one part cynicism. A hybrid of Larry David and Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace.

He’s one of a select few people who I genuinely understand. And though he’s predictable in his surroundings, his list of worldly complaints, and the stories he tells me time and fifty times again, he’s still got the ability to surprise me. After all, who knew that Dinty Moore was such a delicacy?

 

In honor of my canned-soup-loving grandfather, I’ve made a beef stew. It’s pure and delicious, like Dinty used to make, except it doesn’t taste quite like aluminum and salt and gelatin. It’s hearty in a hot, rich, autumnal way. The beef is fork tender, the result of hours of slow simmering on the stove top. And the sauce…oh that sauce. Robust and savory with layers of flavor from beef to thyme to rosemary to red wine. It’s a stew that deserves crusty bread for dipping, a family, and a Sunday afternoon.

Combine all of your spices into a small bowl and set aside.

Cut your meat, chuck or any roast will do, into large 2″ chunks.

Toss the beef with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, coating each piece evenly.

Heat a large pot, preferably a dutch oven, over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add your beef in a single layer and brown on all sides. You just want to develop a nice deep brown crust on the outsides, not cook the beef through. This whole process should only take about 4-5 minutes.

Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.

Return the pot to the burner and add 1 more tablespoon oil along with one diced onion. Saute the onion in the oil and beef drippings for about 5 minutes, just until it has softened.

Add minced garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds. The garlic should be fragrant. Take care not to let it burn, as burnt garlic makes any dish slightly bitter-tasting.

Pour in a half cup of red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping to loosen the crispy bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. These have such rich flavor.

Now add your spice mixture and stir to combine.

Followed by 2 bay leaves.

Return your meat to the pot, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate.

Stir in 1 1/2- 2 cups beef broth.

Cover the pot, reduce the  heat to low and let the stew simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Now, add your vegetables.

Cover the pot again and let the vegetables simmer for 30 minutes, just so they can soften and absorb some of that lovely flavor.

Before you’re ready to serve the stew, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water in a small dish. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved, adding a few drops more water if needed.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the stew and stir. Let the mixture simmer for about 2 minutes and you should notice that it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it hasn’t thickened enough, add more cornstarch- by dissolving more cornstarch in a small bowl with water (roughly 1 part cornstarch to 2 parts cold water).

Taste the stew. Here is where you need to adjust the seasonings- most likely, if something is off a bit- it’s the salt. Be generous and add a few hefty pinches, along with more cracked black pepper.

Beef Stew

(serves 4-5)

  • 1  1/2 lbs beef chuck
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp ground thyme, but 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme would be much better
  • 3 tsp dried rosemary, but fresh would be much better
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 4 large stalks celery, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 4 carrots, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced into 1″ pieces
  • 2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in 3 TBSP cold water
  1. Combine all of your spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Cut your meat (chuck or any roast will do) into large 2″ chunks. In a large bowl, toss the beef with the flour, coating each piece evenly.
  3. Heat a large pot, preferably a dutch oven, over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add your beef in a single layer and brown on all sides. You just want to develop a nice deep brown crust on the outsides, not cook the beef through. This whole process should only take about 4-5 minutes. Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.
  4. Return the pot to the burner and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil along with one diced onion. Saute the onion in the oil and beef drippings for about 5 minutes, just until it has softened.
  5. Add minced garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds. The garlic should be fragrant. Take care not to let it burn, as burnt garlic makes any dish slightly bitter tasting.
  6. Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping to loosen the crispy bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. These have such rich flavor.
  7. Now add your spice mixture and bay leaves and stir to combine.
  8. Return your meat to the pot, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate.
  9. Stir in 1 1/2- 2 cups beef broth.
  10. Cover the pot, reduce the  heat to low and let the stew simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  11. Now, add your carrots, celery, green beans, and potatoes. Cover the pot again and let the vegetables simmer for 30 minutes, just so they can soften and absorb some of that lovely flavor.
  12. Before you’re ready to serve the stew, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water in a small dish. Stir until the cornstarch has dissolved, adding a few drops more water if needed.
  13. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the stew and stir. Let the mixture simmer for about 2 minutes and you should notice that it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it hasn’t thickened enough, add more cornstarch- by dissolving more cornstarch in a small bowl with water (roughly 1 part cornstarch to 2 parts cold water) and then stirring it into the pot. You never want to just toss cornstarch into a hot dish, as it will clump.
  14. Taste the stew. Here is where you need to adjust the seasonings- most likely, if something is off a bit- it’s the salt. Be generous and add a few hefty pinches, along with more cracked black pepper.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy October 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

You have a Papa???
So jealous!

Denise Moore? He’s a riot! I inhaled Dinty Moore stew when I was pregnant with #1 and gagged on it with #2.

go figure
but NOTHING BEATS a home made stew and if I already didn’t have your pulled pork dinner waiting for next weeks’ lineup…

I’d be adding this.

NOM NOM.

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Amy @ Second City Randomness October 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Your grandpa sounds wonderful. Is he in the market to add another grandchild to the mix? He sounds like he’d be right up my alley… :)

I hope everything is going well, my dear!

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Lara (Thinspired) October 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm

I have been looking for a stew recipe that will help me make the meat tender….I see that cooking it for a long time is the secret!

I love this story, because I love my grandfather too, and it reminds me I need to call him :)

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) October 8, 2010 at 6:58 am

This is absolutely that perfect winter meal. And I love that you added so many vegetables to the meal. Mmm…so deliciously warm and inviting. It’s going to my “favorites” list. :D

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Lu October 8, 2010 at 8:57 am

My dad loves Dinty Moore soup and he also thinks it’s a delicacy. He’s a tad younger that your grandfather, but it’s obvious that their generation was onto something. I’m now craving beef stew. I love the way you tell a story!

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malpaz October 8, 2010 at 9:33 am

MMMMM, seriously nothing beats beef stew on a chilly evening…we get those int he south very rarely haha but i do love beef stew!!! i like it with turnips added too

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Megan (Braise The Roof) October 8, 2010 at 9:47 am

I love phone dates like that! I love the tradition. :) Speaking of tradition, beef stew is one of those meals that reminds me of home and family- and Christmas! In my family, it’s a traditional Scandinavian dish called labskaus…I’ll probably get an itch to make it sometime soon since the weather is turning cooler so expect to see it on my blog. Then we can have beef stew wars. Woo!

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 8, 2010 at 10:01 am

Aaahhh I need the labskaus!!!

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Niki October 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Okay, now you have me wishing it was colder here so I can make stew and also that my papou (grandfather in Greek) was still alive so I can hear his old war stories. Wow, now I’m getting weepy!!

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kace October 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I love this whole thing. My Pop is a very important man to me, too : ) Also the smell of stew cooking all day takes me back to being a kid for some reason… we always used to eat it up on cold winter days with fresh, homeade bread…ok time to make stew!

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theprocessofhealing October 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm

OMG I used to looove Dinty More and I haven’t thought about that in YEARS!

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Sana October 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

I love love love your phone dinner with you grandfather! My Grandfather and I have an awesome relationships and we have never met! He lives in India.

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Faith October 10, 2010 at 7:32 am

I knoww my hubby will love this. Great job on the beef stew.. such a good dish for the upcoming winter to keep you warm.

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Quay Po Cooks October 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

We seldom have chilly evenings in my country but we still eat lots of stew and beef stew is one of them. I like this recipe! thanks for sharing.

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Thank you!!

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Win October 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm

You are blessed to have such a warm, loving relationship with your grandfather! After my grandmother died, I ate dinner with Pop Pop once a week until I went off to college. He was a wonderful cook. Those times were precious to me. Thanks for sharing your beef stew recipe…string beans is something I’ve never added, but will now!

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 21, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Awww, glad to hear you had a great relationship with your grandfather too! Thank you!

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Julie Rutledge October 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm

This looks amazing. And I love reading your blog. I have a quick question. Do you have any suggestions for variations with a crock pot?

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Lara January 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I’m not sure I’ve told you this, but I LOVE this stew recipe and use it all the time. I always refer to it and have never appreciated an online recipe so much :) Thanks for sharing <3

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smg February 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm

so, after snaking through the treasure trove that is this website, I need to say something.

I think my soul is in love with your soul. I can relate to everything you write, every sarcastic meandering and witty detail.

The only problem is, my husband NEEDS me. Especially after making your beef stew. Floored. I am a horribly picky eater and I started my weight loss journey at about the same point as you. I may not be very far but I am learning fast. My biggest problem is having about four foods to chose from because I just can’t deal with crappy food and my inspiration for cooking, albeit passionate, kinda comes and goes lately. This dish is bringing me back to life.

Bacon has made a new appearance in my fridge. Moderation is key. And asparagus.

Anyway, just wanted to say that I think we may have been best friends in a past life, if only for a hundred years or so.

Thanks for the inspiration, and the recipes. You know your way around flavor, and it doesn’t have to come from bad places to make these dishes delicious. Unless rosemary is harvested in hell. I’ll get back to you on that.

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Rachel July 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I made this tonight for dinner!! It’s soooo yummy. I halfed the spiced, doubled the broth and forgot the green beans on accident but it’s really good. Or that could be the rest of the bottle of red wine I’m finishing off talking…. Lol. Nah. It’s really good.

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Rachel July 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Oh yeah, I added mushrooms too!

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Shan September 21, 2012 at 5:59 am

Can you please change your format to how it was before? It was so much easier to sort thru the recipes when they were listed and organized!

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Barefoot Beauregard September 22, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I have used this recipe several times as a base for my own beef stew and it has always produced wonderful results. As respect for the Chef I made the recipe verbatim the first time and although I loved it I had to omit the clove after that. This is probably the best and easiest way to make beef stew, you truly taught me my way around a mean beefy pot of this stuff! Thank you!

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