Beef stew is one of my favorite things to eat and it’s only in the past couple years that I started making it at home. One thing I’ve learned along the way is the absolute necessity of using fattier cuts of meat – general consensus these days is chuck is the way to go. Avoid stew meat as there’s no guarantee those convenient cubes of beef all come from the same part of the animal; they’re typically bits and pieces of what’s left over after the butcher has prepared various cuts.
Another is the role flour plays in thickening the stew. Like a roux or gravy, flour helps to create that stick-to-your-bones goodness. Some recipes add flour to the stew as it cooks, this one recommends coating the beef in a seasoned flour before searing. And while most beef stews call for peas, carrots and potatoes, those staples are all absent in this version adapted from The Silver Palate. The spices are somewhat atypical for a beef stew as well but I found the flavor pretty dynamic and definitely liked this iteration on a classic.
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 pounds chuck beef (preferably cut in steaks, rather than cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf
a dozen pearl onions, frozen and thawed or blanched and peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, plus more for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Stir flour, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the chuck beef steaks. Coat the steaks in the flour mixture, shake off the excess and transfer to a plate.
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom oven-proof pan or a Dutch oven. Add the meat, and brown well on each side. This searing process is important to building the stew’s flavor. To do it properly, don’t crowd the meat; if too close together, the meat steams rather than browns and we’ll lose some of the flavor. As the steaks brown, transfer to a plate.
4. When all the meat is browned, drain excess oil from the pan. The bottom will be brown, maybe even black and ashy-looking in some places – that is fine. Add the wine, beef stock and crushed tomatoes and set kettle over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the beef to the pot, then add chili powder, ground coriander and bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Cover the pot and set in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. You want the stew to remain at a steady simmer.
6. After the stew has been cooking for an hour, add the pearl onions. Continue to cook the stew, uncovered.
7. After another 15 minutes, stir in garlic and 1/2 cup parsley. Continue to cook, uncovered, until stew is reduced and thickened to your liking and the beef is tender. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.