Our "cold" days are pretty numbered living here in Arizona. Any kind of chill in the air has us running for jackets, boots and scarves along with warm comfort food like soups and stews. Maybe it's because our winter season is so short that these meals are looked forward to and beloved. We are quite spoiled with the weather in Arizona, especially during the fall/winter/spring months. What we consider "cold" is pretty laughable by the rest of the country's standards. However I'm convinced that in order to survive our extremely hot summers our blood thins and once the temperatures dip below 65 degrees we are just not equipped anymore to take the cold. It is pretty humorous to watch all of the tourists flocking to Arizona during this time of year. Most of the "natives" are wearing winter clothes, but you can pick out all the tourists sporting t-shirts, shorts and flip flops once the thermometer hits 60. It's a heat wave, especially if you've just arrived from North Dakota, Wisconsin or any other northern state.
Taking full advantage of the temperatures dipping last weekend, my husband was craving beef stew. Not just any old beef stew, but Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Stew. I have made a few beef stews over the years and all of them were an improvement over my first encounter with "Dinty Moore", which my husband introduced me too while he was in the military. Beef stew can be extremely blah or it can be a fantastic, flavorful meal. Tyler's recipe falls into the latter category.
Let me start with prefacing that this is NOT a meal that is cooked in 30 minutes. This is one recipe that requires time, but the end result is well worth the effort. This is definitely a weekend meal for us since weekdays are always busy. This is also not the cheapest of meals, especially if you use quality ingredients. However, I can justify the expense many times over by realizing that taking a family of 5 to a restaurant would be way more expensive. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but thought I would share a few pointers that I picked up while cooking this recipe. First off, the recipe calls for 2 cups of flour. This is an utter waste. The flour is used to coat your cubed stew meat and I used 3/4 of a cup at most. So start with one cup, it will be plenty. Secondly, this recipe calls for 1 bottle of red wine. It is important to use a good, well rounded bottle, something you would enjoy drinking as well. Do NOT use cooking wine, cooking wine is an abomination as far as I'm concerned and should never be used to cook with, it will ruin pretty much every dish. Also, if you don't like cooking with wine, then I would suggest finding a different recipe. There are no substitutions in this case, since the wine and acidity will help break down your meat, add flavor, depth and will overall end up making this meal extraordinary. I used a good middle of the road wine (Murphy-Goode: Liar's Dice), that I typically have on hand and it compliments this dish exquisitely.
I also used Yukon gold potatoes, rather then small new potatoes since this is what I usually have at home and it tasted great. The recipe calls for pearl onions, this is were I messed up slightly and simply forgot to grab some at the store. Instead of running back out, I decided to substitute with 1 large yellow onion, which I chopped and sauteed in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil before adding.
This dish calls for ground cloves and a slice of orange zest. I briefly considered leaving it out, since in all honesty it sounded strange to me, but I'm glad I decided against it and went for it. You won't be able to detect either, but they added to the overall complexity of the dish. Last, but not least, the recipe calls for thyme sprigs. I used some butcher's twine to tie them together. Brilliant idea and much easier to remove once the dish is cooked than trying to sift for thyme stems.
The smell of this recipe while cooking was indescribable and the finished meal turned out to be a hit. Totally worth the time, effort and ingredients makes this another wonderful Tyler Florence recipe. My husband's craving for a good stew was more than satisfied and considering that all of the kids had seconds, it was definitely a crowd pleaser. I simply served this with some Peasant bread on the side and my husband enjoyed the stew topped with a bit of horseradish. What made this dish even better was the rainy, cold weather we had while eating along with a couple of glasses of red wine. This is pretty much what a perfect Sunday should feel like in the winter.
Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Stew
(adapted from "Foodnetwork")
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (this is a change from the original 2 cups)
- 2 to 3 pounds beef chuck shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 bottle good quality dry red wine
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs (tied together with butcher's twine)
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 orange, zest removed in 3 (1-inch) strips
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 cups beef stock
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 large onion, diced and sauteed in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound white mushrooms, cut in 1/2
- 1/2 pound garden peas, frozen or fresh
Preheat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with the oil and butter.
While the pan is heating, arrange the flour in a large, shallow dish. Season the cubed beef with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and then toss in the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan, being careful not to over crowd the pan, you might have to work in batches. Thoroughly brown all of the cubes on all sides. Once all the meat has been browned remove it to a plate and reserve.
Add the wine to the pan and bring up to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon being sure to loosen up all those tasty bits. Once the wine has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, smashed garlic, orange zest strips, ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste, bay leaves and beef stock. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquids start to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours.
After 2 hours add diced potatoes, sliced carrots, sauteed onions and mushrooms, along with a pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Add the frozen peas during the last few minutes or cooking. Season one more time with salt and pepper and remove the thyme sprigs.