Essential Home Cooking

Essential Home Cooking

Quick Beef Stew | Serves: 4

When there’s a chill in the air and you don’t have the time or inclination to cook, you can still get an amazingly flavorful beef stew on the table in under an hour. I take a few clever shortcuts here. There’s a product called Better Than Bouillon. Is it as good as homemade stock? Not quite. But it’s miles away from a bouillon cube. It comes in these cute little jars that you keep in your fridge. Perfect for when you realize you don’t have any stock on hand. They come in beef, chicken and vegetable, and are just around $4 to $6 per jar. If I don’t have homemade stock on hand, I always use this genius product.

Vegetable oil

12 oz  sirloin beef strips

2 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium-size carrots, diced

3 medium-size parsnips, diced

3 tbsp tomato paste

2½ cups water

1 tsp Better Than

Bouillon Roasted Beef Base (or 2½ cups broth)

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into ½” cubes (about 8 oz)

2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup water, for slurry (optional)

Place your Dutch oven over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with enough oil to cover.

Dredge the strips of meat in the flour and season with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the Dutch oven and cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board with tongs. A thick layer of fond will have formed on the bottom.

Add the onion, carrots and parsnips to the pan with a pinch of salt and stir occasionally until lightly browned. If it gets too dry and begins to smoke, add ¼ cup of water. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the water and Better Than Bouillon and stir to combine. Add the chopped potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Return the beef to the pot to reheat.

I prefer my stew at this consistency but if you want something thicker, use the slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup of water and stir until smooth. Add the slurry and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. The stew will need to come up to a boil to cook out the taste of raw cornstarch and activate the thickening capabilities. Serve with hearty slices of bread.

Troubleshooting the Slurry Whenever you add cornstarch, you’ll need to create a slurry. If you sprinkle in the cornstarch it will stay lumpy; by creating a quick slurry (small amount of liquid with cornstarch whisked in), it will be smooth and disperse evenly throughout the stew. If it’s not thickening up you’ll need to increase the heat to boiling for 30 seconds to 1 minute to fully activate the thickening.

Reprinted with permission from Essential Tools, Tips & Techniques for the Home Cook by Michelle Doll, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Alexandra Grablewski.

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