EDISON, NJ - I love soups and stews in winter and I especially love a good beef stew. It brings me back to my childhood and there’s something inherently comforting in stew. For the beef, I used a chuck roast that I cut into one inch squares. I used a myriad of vegetables and made the pearl barley separately, cooked it until al dente and then finished it in the stew. I used veal stock as the base and if you are so inclined, using veal stock made for a very tasty stew. However, if you don’t have access to veal bones to make the stock, beef stock will certainly do the trick. The great thing about stew is that it’s a very forgiving dish and can accommodate almost any vegetable you have on hand. So, I’ll provide my recipe here but definitely do not be shy about substituting out one ingredient you may not care for or have on hand for another that you do prefer or have on hand. The only real rules with stew, as with any braise, is that you have to completely brown the meat to a dark brown and then slowly cook the meat and vegetables in a liquid, usually stock or wine or a combination of the two. However, if you prefer beer, a dark beer would work really well with this. Cognac would work as well. Really the possibilities are limited only by you!
2-3 Pounds chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Cup Pearl Barley
3-4 Quarts of veal or beef stock
2 Onions, medium dice
2 Leeks, cleaned and small dice
4 Carrots, medium dice
3 Celery stalks, medium dice
5 Cloves garlic, minced
4 Bay leaves (fresh if possible)
2 Thyme branches
1 Cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated
1 Cup pearl onions (fresh if available, frozen and thawed if not)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Red Pepper flakes
Olive or grapeseed oil as needed
1-2 Quarts Water for pearl barley
- Cube the chuck roast into 1 inch squares. Season all sides with kosher salt. Set aside.
- Prepare all the vegetables and set aside.
- Have the stock warmed and at the ready.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add enough grapeseed oil or olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Place the beef in the pan, a little at a time, so that the pan is not overcrowded. Brown beef on all sides, achieving a very deep brown coloring. This develops the flavor in the dish, so don’t skimp on time here. Continue in batches until meat is completely browned. Set browned meat aside.
- Wipe oil out of pan being careful to leave brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan intact. Add more olive oil or grapeseed oil to the pan, enough to barely coat the bottom. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery, and thyme leaves. Add a healthy pinch of kosher salt and a dash of red pepper flakes.
- Cook the vegetables until browned and caramelized, about 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic, the bay leaves, and the tomato paste. Cook another minute or two.
- Add the meat back into the pan and turn the heat to high. Add the stock to the Dutch oven, a little at a time until the meat and vegetables are almost but not completely immersed. Bring liquid to boil and then reduce heat to low/simmer and cover.
- Every half hour, check on the stew and give it a stir. Continue cooking for at least two hours but four would probably be better. As you go, you may need to add additional stock to the pan.
- About an hour prior to finishing, place the dried mushrooms in an air tight container, add very hot water to cover the mushrooms and seal the container. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and the water to the pan.
- Take the peas and pearl onions (if using frozen) and place in colander. Run water over them to thaw. Set aside.
- In a separate pan, place a medium sized sauce pan on medium high heat. Add the pearl barley with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Stir the barley around the pot for a couple minutes, being careful not to burn it. Slowly start adding the water to the pearl barley, a little at a time, stirring constantly. As the barley absorbs the liquid and you feel a bit of resistance while stirring, add more water and continue on adding water cup by cup until the barley reaches an al dente texture (about 30 minutes or so).
- Once the barley is finished, add to the stew.
- Allow the barley to simmer with the stew for 20-30 minutes more. Stirring occasionally.
- Just prior to serving, add the peas and pearl onions.
- Remove bay leaves
- Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt, freshly ground pepper, or more red pepper flakes. If you feel it needs a little something extra, try drizzling apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar (just a touch) over the top.
Serve while hot with crusty bread.
Craig Thiebaud is a Diplomat of Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) located in SOHO in New York City. After extensive training in the Art of French cooking and professional food preparation in general, he brings his knowledge of food and passion for cooking to us by sharing culinary techniques and creating recipes that mainly use local, seasonal ingredients and can be easily recreated in the home kitchen. Good, wholesome meals for the family can be created quickly with planning, using the best techniques with the best ingredients that are both affordable and available. Let's get back into the kitchen together!