Beef stew is the ultimate comfort food. I had never actually made it until I saw the move Julie & Julia, which inspired me to give it a try. Who knew a few years later I’d have my own food blog? The day after seeing that movie I went out and bought a dutch oven pot, unfortunately it’s not Le Crueset, but it’s served me pretty well. Anyway, I’ve been perfecting this recipe over the years, trying to find ways to maximize flavor and minimize calories, fat and sodium. This recipe takes everything that’s delicious about stew and adds lots of healthy veggies and barley. The result is an immensely flavorful and filling stew that is hearty for all the right reasons. The high protein and fiber content will fill you up, while a bit of bacon, fresh herbs and red wine add a ton of flavor.
This recipe makes a LOT of stew. At least 8 servings worth. My reasoning for this is that if you’re going to spend hours cooking something, you should get multiple meals out of it. Here, you can either eat this for days, or freeze it. This recipe freezes really well. Just make sure to use a glass of BPA-free plastic container and seal tightly. You can defrost and serve whenever.
I like to think this recipe captures the spirit of Julia Child’s while being a healthier, modern version. Most importantly, if you have to open a bottle of wine to make this recipe, make sure to enjoy some, Julia always had “wine for the cook!” Enjoy!
Tips for Great Beef Stew
- Make sure beef is room temperature and totally patted dry before browning
- Keep an eye on the amount of liquid while cooking. You want to braise the beef, not boil it. Meat should always be 2/3 covered in the liquid
- Use fresh herbs. I know I say this all the time. But fresh herbs make such a difference. This is a dish that needs to be cooked for hours, adding fresh rosemary and thyme adds so much more flavor throughout the cooking process than dried can.
- Choose the right beef. You want chuck or shank stew meat. It should be nicely marbleized and cut into uniform sized chunks
- Don’t rush! This is a simple recipe, but it takes time. The investment is well worth it. Cooking the meat for a long time breaks down the connective tissue and adds a ton of flavor.
2lbs beef stew meat, cubed
1.25 cups of pearled barley, rinsed
1 cup red wine
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
1/4lb (4 oz) uncured, thick cut bacon, finely diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
8 cups (2 32oz containters) low-sodium beef broth
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 medium parsnip, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 purple topped turnips, cut into 1″ chunks
8 oz water
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Step by Step Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 450
2. In a large dutch oven or fireproof pot, saute diced bacon on medium heat until brown, 5-6 minutes
3. After patting meat chunks dry, season with salt and pepper
4. Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour over the meat
5. Sear the meat for 3 minutes on each side
6. Flip each piece over and season that side with salt, pepper and dust with the other tbsp of flour
7. It’s important not to overcrowd the pan, cook the meat in batches if necessary
8. Remove meat from heat and set aside.
9. Add onions and garlic to the pan and cook until softened, 6-7 minutes, stir frequently
10. Add tomato paste and brown for 2-3 minutes, scraping the pan
11. Add wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up any browned bits
12. Add meat back to the pan
13. Add 2 cups of beef broth, making sure not to cover the meat entirely, season with salt and pepper
14. Throw in thyme and rosemary sprigs
15. Cover and place in the oven
16. Braise the meat for 1 hour
17. Remove from the oven and turn heat down to 350
18. Stir in barley and remaining broth, cover and return to the oven
19. Cook for an additional 90 minutes, checking to stir every 30 minutes or so
20. Remove from the oven
21. Remove the rosemary and thyme sprigs, most of the leaves should have fallen off
22. Add turnips, parsnips and carrots and water, stir thoroughly and season with pepper
23. Return to the oven for an additional 30-45 minutes
24. Serve hot with fresh bread