Friday, August 6, 2010

Beef Stew Goodness

A few of months ago, I went out to lunch with a coworker and two of our foreign liaisons at a small Belgian/French bistro near the office.  Since I'm not a fan of the very popular mussels, I decided to go with the Flemish Beef Stew.  Simply put, it was amazing.  It must have lasted all of about 2 minutes on my plate - it was that good.

Not to be outdone by a highly trained and experienced chef (and the restaurant's exorbitant prices), I decided that I would resurrect the Belgian Beef Stew recipe that I had discovered in a Cooking Light issue a couple of months prior.  I had not tried said recipe due to my husband's ridiculous aversion to all things beef stew.  I finally managed to convince him that my version wouldn't taste anything like the Dinty Moore version that he kept envisioning, and I was permitted to try the recipe.

I am so glad that I did!  This stew is absolutely amazing.  Go on, get thee to a grocery store and get the ingredients.  You will not regret the time and effort involved, especially if you serve it over mashed potatoes.


Belgian Beef Stew
  • 3  center-cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2  pounds  boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4  cup fat-free, low-sodium beef broth 
  • 5  cups  sliced cremini mushrooms (about 12 ounces)
  • 3  tbsp onion powder 
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 3  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  fat-free, low-sodium beef broth
  • 1  (12-ounce) bottle amber beer (see note below) 
  • 2  tablespoons  country-style Dijon mustard
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  teaspoon  dried thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon  caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 2  cups  (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 3/4  cups  (1/2-inch-thick) slices parsnip (about 1/2 pound)

1. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings; set aside.
2. Add half of beef to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
3. Add 1/4 cup of beef broth, mushrooms, onion powder and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until half of liquid evaporates.
4. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Stir in remaining beef broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
6. Add beer, bacon, beef, mustard, salt, thyme, caraway seeds (if using), pepper and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.
7. Add carrots and parsnips and simmer another hour or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. 


Ok, a few notes here:
-  The original recipe calls for 2 cups of chopped onion to be sauteed after the beef has been browned but before you add the mushrooms.  I hate eating onions (except for onion rings and onion dip - don't judge me), so because I'm the cook, my version of the recipe does not include this step.  However, because I don't mind onion flavoring in the form of onion powder, I have included that in the recipe.  My kids/husband love the non-onion version, so feel free to go whichever way you wish.
-  I once forgot to get bacon at the store, so I just took some of the fat trimmings from the chuck roast and pan-seared that for a few minutes before I started browning the beef.  Then I just crumbled up some cooked bacon leftover from breakfast and added it into the pot.  That turned out pretty well, so it's a good option if you don't have uncooked bacon on hand.
-  For the beer, we've been using a Belgian ale called "Duchesse de Bourgogne".  It adds an interesting hint of sweetness to the recipe, and it comes in two sizes at our local Total Wine and More.  The first time I made this, I used the 12oz bottle and at least 2 cups of beef broth because we tend to like a bit of extra sauce/gravy/whatever.  The next time I made it, TWM was out of the 12oz bottles so Drew brought home the 1pt9oz bottle.  I dialed back on the beef broth to compensate - and it was amazing!!  Highly recommend it!  As an added bonus, the larger bottle isn't that much more expensive than the small bottle (go figure!).
-  The original recipe calls for adding the beer first and then the broth with the other ingredients.  We find that we like the flavor better if you switch that around and add the broth first.
-  I recommend waiting to add the carrots and parsnips until about an hour into the simmering, because otherwise the parsnips can get a bit mushy.
-  I was out of Dijon mustard 3 weeks ago when I made this, so I used Colman's mustard powder as a substitute.  DO NOT DO THIS!  The flavor was all wrong, and the last batch made with Dijon mustard confirmed that this is why the previous batch didn't turn out as well as it normally does.  So make sure you have Dijon mustard!!
This stew is even better the second day, so plan to prepare this as a Sunday dinner and keep a lot of plastic single-serving-size containers handy to store the leftovers for lunch.

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