I have been trying to revitalize some of my cooking styles and work some new classics in the mix. The men in my life have been ordering beef stews in restaurants quite a bit here recently and especially since the cold snap. I have a tomato based stew that I have been making since I was a kid (total family recipe) that I really enjoy, but I’ve never really eaten and certainly never cooked a non-tomato based stew when winter weather practically demands and nice thick stew, so I thought I would try to find a nice, classic stew recipe to learn the basics and then build upon as I find my preferences. I did a little browsing and came upon this beef stew recipe . Since I usually recipe surf from my phone, I didn’t realize it was a Paula Deen recipe until I went back to look at it to make sure I wasn’t missing any ingredients, but I won’t be too hard on myself for that lapse.
Keeping my heavy “make the recipe my own” hand in check, I made the recipe exactly as listed and man oh man was it a mistake. This was the most boring, blandest homemade dish I have ever made in my entire life. I have had Dinty Moore canned stews with more flavor than this recipe creates. Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but a complete and total let down. On top of being disappointed, I made this stew to take to another person’s house for a working dinner and I was almost a little embarrassed by it. So you can learn from my mistakes, here is the recipe as listed and cooked, so you never accidentally make a stew that is plain like this again.
2 pounds stew beef
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Dash ground allspice or ground cloves
3 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Brown meat in hot oil. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add carrots and celery. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes longer. To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine
1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with a little hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly.
If I was only allowed to change one thing in this stew recipe to save it, it would be replacing the water with beef stock, or adding 2 tsp of Beef or Vegetable Better than Bouillon soup base. I think that one minor change would make a tremendous difference in the entire flavor profile of the stew- especially with the Better than Bouillon. Going forward, I am always going to use stock instead of plain water in all of my Beef Stew experiments.
TL;DR: Learn from My Mistake: Use Beef Stock.