Last weekend, we enjoyed a rarely cold spring day here in Florida. I have always enjoyed early spring weather—days in which there is still a chill in the air, but the hints of green popping up all around promise warmth to come. Ingredients are fresher, but one still craves stick-to-your-bones comfort food. Such days require braised meats or a hearty stew, like this one.
When making beef stew, I prefer to use a dark beer of the stout variety, but substituting red wine or Port are both delicious options. If you want to skip the booze all together, use broth instead—both beef and chicken broth work well.
Finally, I like to use rendered bacon fat when browning the meat. It provides an added hit of flavor. Seriously, this stuff is liquid gold—next time you cook up some bacon, allow the fat to cool in the pan, then pour it in a glass jar, store it in the refrigerator (for up to one month), and use it in place of butter or oil. You’ll thank me later.
2 1/2 lbs beef roast, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1 Tbsp, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp rendered bacon fat or olive oil
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and quartered
2 large celery stalks, cleaned and cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, smashed, papery skins removed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 lb baby red potatoes, cleaned and quartered (for smaller potatoes, cut in half)
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
2 dried bay leaves
12 oz dark beer (of the stout variety)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1. Heat the rendered bacon fat or olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Once the oil is shimmering hot and easily coats the surface of the pot, add the beef. Sprinkle 1/4-cup flour and 1 tsp each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper over the meat. Stir to combine and continue to cook the meat, allowing it to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the beer into the pot, then using your wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits that may have accumulated.
3. Add the carrots, parsnips, onions, celery, garlic, and tomato paste to the pot. Stir to combine and evenly distribute the tomato paste. Add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaves, and broth. Give all the ingredients another good stir.
4. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot with its lid ajar and simmer the stew for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. Meanwhile, combine the softened butter and the remaining 1 Tbsp flour in a small bowl, forming a paste.
6. Once the meat is tender, remove the herb bundle and bay leaves.
7. Add the butter-flour paste to the stew, a dollop at a time. Stir each dollop into the stew, allowing the butter to melt and distribute throughout the mixture. This will help the sauce to thicken.
8. Once all of the butter-flour paste has been incorporated, stir the peas into the stew. Give the peas a few minutes to heat through, then taste the stew for seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.
9. Serve warm with a nice green salad on the side.