Beef Stew with Tomato Sauce

This is one of my staples.    I make this in a million variations.    I'll try to give some sense of how I do this.    This is one of those things that needs to cook for a few hours. It makes good leftovers, though how well it freezes depends on the variety of potatoes used.


1/4 cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 pounds Stewing beef (cut into 1/2" cubes)
4 Tbs Olive oil (divided)
2 Medium Onions (chopped)
2 quarts Beef stock
1 cup Dry red wine (optional)
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Rosemary
1/2 tsp Basil
1/2    pound Mushrooms (quartered)
4 Medium Potatoes (peeled and cut into pieces)
1 package Frozen mixed vegetables   
1 24-oz can    Tomato sauce


Mix flour, salt, pepper and cayenne.    Coat beef with flour mixture.    I usually do this by putting the flour mixture into a small paper bag.    I then add a few pieces of the meat and shake the bag.    Remove the meat and do another few pieces.    Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet.    Brown the beef in the oil.    You will need to do this a bit at a time to make sure it browns rather than "grays".    If a lot of liquid is coming off the meat, you have put too much into the pan.

In a stockpot, heat 1 Tbs oil.    Brown the onions in this until they are transparent. Add the beef, wine and the stock.    Add the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and basil.    Bring this to a boil.    Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.    The stew should be gently bubbling, not boiling.    Add the mushrooms and potatoes.    Simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 1/2 - 3/4 hour.    Thaw the vegetables.    Add them and the tomato sauce.    Simmer for 1/2 hour.    Adjust the seasonings.




Variations

1:   Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and add when you add the onions.

2:   The liquid you use will make a lot of difference.    A stronger, fruitier flavor
      comes from replacing some of the stock with additional wine.    Use a dry wine
      (e.g. burgundy, cabernet or merlot).    Water that you have used to cook
      vegetables in give good flavors, but these flavors don't always keep well.    If
      you use vegetable cooking water, use it right away and be prepared for the
      flavor it gives to disappear in the leftovers.    Chicken stock will give a lighter
      flavor than beef stock.    Canned stocks will be fine, but they tend to contain a
      lot of salt.    If you use them, you may want to check the saltiness by tasting
      before you add the salt.

3:   The vegetables that you use can be endless.    I often use fresh rather than
      frozen. Things that can go in include:

4:   The seasonings are designed to give an Italian feel to this.    You can give a
      Mexican feel by omitting the thyme, rosemary and basil and adding chili
      powder, garlic and cumin.    Cut up a green or red bell pepper and add it when
      you add the onions.    Make sure that you include corn among the vegetables.

5:   A sort of a French feel can be given by omitting the thyme, rosemary, basil and
      tomato sauce and using more wine (e.g. the whole bottle).    Adding more
      onions and minimizing vegetables and potatoes brings this close to beef
      burgundy.    If you do that, you may want to thicken it before serving by
      adding some corn starch in water.

6:   A Scottish feel can be made by omitting the thyme, rosemary, basil, tomato
      sauce and wine substituting lamb (or mutton, if you can get it) for the beef.
      Add a bit more stock or use water to replace the wine.    Slicing in a couple of
      leeks is a nice touch.    Near the end of cooking add about 1/2 cup of cooked
      pearl barley (cook using the directions on the package).

7:   I have substituted several things for the tomato sauce added at the end.
      Crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, fresh diced tomatoes.    They all give a
      different quality to the stew.    The weirdest thing I ever tried was canned
      cooked pumpkin.    It thickened the stew nicely and gave it a neat flavor and
      consistency.    If you try this, make sure that the pumpkin is not spiced.




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Copyright © 2001 by Joseph Boxhorn & Donna Pelikan Boxhorn.   All rights reserved.