No-Peek Beef Stew for a Winter Warm Up
Is there anything better to chase away the bone-chilling cold of winter than old-fashioned beef stew? Well, yes. How about “no-peek” old-fashioned beef stew? Beat the winter blahs with a bowl of hearty, soul-satisfying beef stew with root vegetables. You can enjoy the heady aroma of this one-pot meal as it cooks slowly, without attendance, in the oven. No peeking! A salad of crisp winter greens and a loaf of homemade bread to sop up the gravy make this our favorite winter supper!
“No Peek” Beef Stew
Since you will need two pounds of cubed beef for the stew, if you’re buying a roast, buy a larger one than you think you need, since you will be trimming the roast.
2 pounds or so of beef chuck roast, weighed after trimming and cut in 1-½” cubes OR 2 pounds beef stew meat, already cut up
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped — about 3 cups
3 ribs of celery cut in diagonal pieces
4 to 5 medium carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2” pieces
1-1/4 cups tomato juice OR 1-1/4 cups beef broth mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup minute/quick-cooking tapioca
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
Up to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
4 to 5 medium-sized red or Yukon gold potatoes cut in nice sized chunks, 2 pounds or so
Handful fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Spray a 2-1/2 quart ovenproof heavy pot with lid. (I use an enameled cast iron pot.)
Combine beef, onion, celery, carrots, tomato juice, tapioca, sugar, salt, pepper and basil in the casserole. Give it a good stir. I like to lay a piece of foil snugly on top of the stew so that the stew stays submerged in the braising liquid as it cooks. Cover and cook for two hours.
Mix potatoes into the stew and continue cooking, covered, for about another hour. (You may need additional 1/4 cup tomato juice or broth at this point). Adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Serves four to six.
Cook it in the Slow Cooker!
Cook the stew in a sprayed slow cooker on low for seven to 10 hours (check after seven hours), or on high four to five (check after four).
For deeper flavor and color, brown the meat first in a bit of hot oil. This results in a darker, more intensely flavored stew, but is optional.
What’s the Best Beef for Stew?
Any kind of stewing beef will work. My preference is chuck roast. Chuck comes from the shoulder of the cow. It contains fat and heavily exercised muscle tissue, making it a working cut of meat. Because of that, chuck is one of the toughest cuts of meat. You have to tease the delicious beefy flavor from chuck roast. The slow cooking in liquid breaks down the fibers and makes the meat succulent and tender.
What Kind of Onions Lend the Best Flavor to Stews?
Whatever you have on hand! Yellow, white, or red all work well, with red onions giving a more mild flavor.
Why Peel Carrots and Potatoes for Stew?
Very small, whole potatoes don’t need peeling and can be left whole or cut in half. With regular potatoes, unless the skin is very tender, they get peeled. Ditto for carrots.
If left on, the skin cooks up wrinkly and makes the vegetables a little tough.
Substituting Flour for Tapioca
Tapioca gives the gravy a sheen and a lighter texture than flour. To substitute flour, use this ratio. For every two teaspoons tapioca, use one tablespoon of flour. Since this recipe calls for 1/3 cup (16 teaspoons) of tapioca, you’ll need eight tablespoons flour (1/2 cup). Whisk the flour into the tomato juice or broth until it’s smooth before adding to the stew.
Add More Vegetables!
Toss in some frozen peas when you add the potatoes.
Substituting Venison for the Beef
My sister, Edith, had a wood burning cook stove. Now that was a challenge to use! Stoking the stove with the proper kinds and lengths of wood was left to her husband, Jess. He was an avid hunter and cook and taught my sister and me how to cook venison and substitute it for beef in recipes. Venison works well in this beef stew recipe, but you should cut the pieces larger than for beef. Two-inch pieces are good. Why? This protein-packed wild meat doesn’t have much fat, and smaller pieces may get too dry during long cooking times.
Freezing Meat for Stew
One of the best meat preservation methods for stew meat is to cut up the meat and put it in a freezer bag in a single layer. Lay the bag flat, then gently press out air. This creates a sort of vacuum to prevent ice crystals from forming. It also allows you to remove just the amount you need from the frozen meat.