As we are nearing the middle of autumn and the weather outside is getting colder by the day, the craving for something hot and delicious to warm up my stomach is starting to kick in. Imagine it’s windy and icy cold outside (if you’re from the Midwest like me, you probably won’t have to imagine too hard) and you come home to have your house filled with the aroma of fresh ingredients and a pot of piping hot stew simmering on the stove. The feeling is like discovering an oasis of water in a dessert, but more delicious.
A less thick version of soup, stew usually consist of large chucks of meat, vegetables, or other ingredients, cooked together in a thick stock. Stew can be said to be the epitome and pure essence of comfort food. There’s just something about sipping a bowl of steaming hot stew inside during a bitterly cold day, that brings the familiar feeling of warmth and home. Perhaps it’s because we’ve all experienced that natural taste of warmth in one way or another.
This feeling of hearty warmth dates all the way back to ancient times, with the first recipes of stew being found in Roman and French cookbooks. Even the creation of Hungarian Goulash, goes all the way back to the 9th century before Hungary was even a country. Today, the variations and different types of stews are pretty limitless, but are basically divided into two main types of meat-based stews, white and brown stews. White stews consist more of lightly seared lamb or veal, meanwhile, brown stews consist of seared red meat. Certainly there are also vegetarian stews that are equally delicious.
As stews generally require brewing over low heat, they usually take a longer time to cook compared to soups. If you’re looking for more of a quick meal, it’s probably best to look for a simpler recipe with a not so long ingredient list. This tasty beef and barley brown stew definitely fits the criteria. Filled with tender beef and colorful vegetables, this recipe serves as a nutritious meal that’s both simple and delicious.
A few major tips to keep in mind when making this stew, is to buy decent stew meat instead of cheaper cuts, as cheaper cuts take a much longer time to become tender. For the most authentic taste, also be sure to keep the stew in the traditional rustic style, as stew was meant to be robust, filled with large chucks and big hearty bites. Most importantly, stew was made to be thick, and the key to getting a hearty thick stew is flour. You can either coat your pieces of meat with flour before searing, or another option is to use roux or beurre manie, dough made of equal parts of butter and flour. Cornstarch also wonderfully works like a charm.
Bread is the other main ornament to stew, it just wouldn’t be the same without it. For this beef beauty, baguettes or even a bowl of couscous would make the perfect match. So start up that stove, get cozy, and let that stew simmer away.
- 2 lbs. of extra lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 in. pieces
- 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 chopped medium onion
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 1 cup of sliced carrots
- 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon of crushed dried thyme
- 5 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of potatoes, cut into 1 in. chunks
- 2 cups of sweet potatoes, cut into 1 in. chunks
- 1 cup of chopped roma tomatoes
- 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup of medium barley
- 1 cup of frozen peas
- Season the meat with pepper and coat with flour, then in a 6-quart oven coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook the meat over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté for several minutes, then add the carrots, parsley, and thyme, and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Add the broth then boil the water, scraping the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce the heat, cover, then let it simmer for 45 minutes. Add in the potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and barley. Reduce the heat, cover, and let it continue to boil over low heat for 30-45 minutes, until the meat and vegetables become tender. Add the peas then stir for one minute.
- If you fancy sweet potatoes more, take out the potatoes and use 4 cups of sweet potatoes instead