I don’t know about y’all, but one of the first things I reach for when the weather gets cold are hearty one-pot meals, like this beef stew. It’s filling, comforting, easy, relatively kid-friendly, and lasts for days and days. It also doesn’t push my postage stamp-sized kitchen into level four trauma status. Raise your hand if you want to clean a disaster area with a fusspants newborn strapped to your chest? No takers? Thought so. Raise your hand if you want an easy dinner and an excuse for perfectly paired Pinot Noir? Yes? Red wine beef stew for the win.
A few weeks ago I bought my very first dutch oven. If you think that a dutch oven is unnecessary because it’s basically just a fancy pot, you are wrong. Believe me, I was wrong for years and it hurts to be that wrong. The defining characteristic of a dutch oven is its weight, and these suckers are heavy. For one-pot braised meals like stew and chili, heft is a necessity in one’s cooking vessel. This translates to superior heat retention, allowing you to evenly brown and caramelize the meat before braising (vs. a standard soup pot, which gets colder once the meat hits the fat). The tight-fitting lid ensures a steady cooking temperature, resulting in oh-so-tender meat that is perfectly infused with moisture and flavor. Dutch ovens. They get the job done.
Naturally this masterpiece from Le Creuset has been on my “covet-so-hard-I’d-sell-the-first-born” Amazon wish list for years. But alas, The Kid’s been pretty good lately and has developed a wicked sense of humor, so I allowed him to stay while I considered a few different options. (But hey, I’m not giving up yet…there’s always the teenage years.) I ultimately settled on this 6-quart enameled piece from Lodge. Even though it doesn’t have a fancy name like Marseille (it’s just “blue”), it’s perfectly adequate for a fraction of the price. Now, go forth and stew it up in the kitchen!
This super comforting red wine beef stew is also super nutritious by featuring lean beef, seasonal winter veggies, and homemade beef stock. We choose to eat seasonally and use locally sourced grass fed beef and dairy in our kitchen because we believe that it’s better for our health and the health of our planet. I’m working on a post with more information about our food choice philosophies, but you can read up a little on on it here. That being said, we also believe that our readers are perfectly capable of making the best choices for their families, and you can find any of these ingredients at your local supermarket.
- 10 oz pearl onions, peeled (or 1 medium red onion and 1 medium vidalia onion, thinly sliced)
- 1 tbsp grass fed butter
- 2 lb grass fed beef chuck, cut into 2" pieces
- 4 slices nitrate/nitrite free bacon, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 large celery stalks, cut into 1" pieces
- 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1" pieces
- 12 oz potatoes (any), cut into 1" pieces
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 bottle dry red wine, like Pinot Noir
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- sea salt, to taste
- cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil (do not salt). While the water is coming to a boil, chop the garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes. One the water boils, add the pearl onions and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, and plunge into an ice bath. Allow to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, then drain.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium. Once the pot is hot, add the butter and cook until it foams. Cook the beef cubes in the butter in batches, being careful not to crowd the pot. Turn the pieces every few minutes until browned and slightly caramelized on all sides, 20-25 minutes. As you finish each batch, remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- While the beef is cooking, peel the blanched pearl onions. Cut off the root end of each onion and gently squeeze - the onion should pop out of the tough outer skin.
- Once the meat is done cooking, add the bacon to the pot and cook until the fat renders, 5 minutes. Push to bacon to the outer edges, add the onions, and cook until soft and starting to brown in spots, 8-10 minutes. Push aside some of the onions from the center of the pot and add the garlic. Cook until soft and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar, and cook, stirring up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until all the vinegar is evaporated, 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cooked beef, celery, carrots, and potatoes to the bacon, onion, and garlic mixture, along with the beef stock and red wine. Stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaves, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, cover the pot, turn off the burner and transfer to the oven. Cook approximately 2 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart. During the last 15 minutes, increase the heat to 450 and remove the lid; this will allow the stew to slightly thicken. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig before serving, and garnish with additional fresh thyme.
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