Ladle out a bowl, mug or thermos of hot, hearty stew to fuel up for wintertime activities or for just enjoying a movie by a cozy fire.
If you’ve never made a stew, or if you haven’t cooked one up in a while, the heart of winter is the perfect time. We’ve been using this basic recipe for years, varying the ingredients with what we have on hand. Different iterations have featured beef tri-tip, moose, elk, caribou, and even bowhead whale. Sweet potatoes, other potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables feature nicely. A favorite of ours is parsnips, which add a distinctive flavor that goes well with beef and wild game. While corn starch or all purpose flour are traditional thickeners in stews – and perfectly fine – we use rice flour. It dissolves easily, is virtually without flavor and thickens without becoming pasty.
Rather than provide specific amounts of ingredients for this delicious meal, we recommend taking a loose approach. A volume ratio of about three to one vegetables (combined) to meat works well, but there’s no need to measure or to be overly exact.
Ingredients (Each vegetable is optional and could be omitted while increasing the amount of other vegetables or substituted for something else.)
- lean, boneless meat such as chuck steak, tri-tip, or a similar cut from wild game. Cut into cubes or chunks.
- olive oil
- onions, chopped coarse
- garlic, minced or chopped fine
- red wine or sherry (optional)
- beef bouillon (or vegetable bouillon, or water) – enough to just cover all ingredients when combined. We use Better than Bouillon.
- carrots, sliced into discs
- russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
- pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes or yams, cubed
- parsnips, chopped coarse or sliced into discs
- mushrooms, chunked
- brussels sprouts, cut in halves or fourths, depending on size
- tomatoes, diced
- sweet corn
- seasonings: sea salt or smoked salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, sage, cloves
- In a large bowl, add meat, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot enough to make the meat sizzle, add it, stirring and turning to sear meat. Reduce temperature and continue cooking meat through, about 6 minutes.
- Add onion and additional oil, if necessary. Add a splash or two of sherry or red wine (optional). Stir until onions become barely translucent but are still crunchy.
- Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in seasonings and add bouillon mixture or water.
- Add potatoes and any other slow-cooking vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in rice flour – a little at a time to prevent clumping – to achieve desired thickness. Start by adding a total of 1 tbsp, wait a few minutes as broth thickens, and continue adding to desired thickness.
- Add additional vegetables, adding corn last as it doesn’t need much cooking time. Simmer till vegetables are tender, tasting and adjusting seasonings as necessary.
Alternatively: Place vegetables, (except corn) in individual bowls – each to its own bowl. Mix thoroughly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Keeping vegetables separate according to their kind, place them all on a heavy, oiled baking sheet and roast them at 400 degrees F, checking and removing each type of vegetable as it is done and setting them all aside in a large bowl. This ensures that all vegetables are cooked to the right consistency, and the roasting brings out sweetness. Cook meat as above, set aside with the oil it cooked in, and then add all ingredients to a large pot to finish cooking. Add the corn last. Vegetables can be grilled in this fashion too. It’s a little more effort, but it makes a difference.