Cold weather — be it in the depths of winter, on a spring day with a keen edge to the wind, or when the first chill of autumn arrives — calls out for hearty, comforting nourishment. I can’t think of a better answer to that call than Beef Stew with Red Wine. I like to toss together this stew in the slow cooker on a Sunday morning. Then, while I putter about or go for a drive to marvel at the frozen lake, it cooks away, building flavour, getting tender and happy and filling the house with its enticing fragrance.
This is my “standard” beef stew, and I don’t use a recipe for it. However, I did make a point of writing down the recipe as I went at one point so I could share it here. Feel free to use it as is, or add your own special touches. It you make variations on this recipe, do drop a note in the comments and tell me about them. I’m always looking for new ideas!
I make it more or less the same each time, but each batch varies somewhat according to what I have on hand and whim. I do like to use a fair amount of celery, and am especially happy when I have lots of the leaves as provide intense celery flavour. I don’t always have leeks, but it’s worth buying them just for this stew — they add such flavour and, for me, wonderful food memories, as my mother often cooked with leeks.
Even when you serve this Beef Stew with Red Wine in a rustic way, such as over plain boiled potatoes, it always seems elegant. Part of the reason for that is the fine chopping of the vegetables.
It’s a great dish for company and one of its virtues is that, like most stews, the flavours develop with time — it always seems to taste even better on the second day. When people are coming over, I like to make it the day ahead and refrigerate it. Then all I need to do is reheat it in my most beautiful cooking vessel and the house will smell fragrant and inviting when they arrive. And I can appear remarkably relaxed despite having produced this most excellent meal (if I may say so myself).
Beef Stew with Red Wine
© Marlene Cornelis/Urban Cottage Life 2014
This recipe lends itself to slow cooker cooking, but this recipe is for the stove top. While it takes a fair amount of prep time, it needs little attention during its lengthy cooking time. By all means, make a double batch and freeze the leftovers in dinner-sized portions; you’ll thank yourself on those days when time is short and you’re hungering for comfort food.
- 2 medium yellow cooking onions, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 red chill pepper, deseeded and minced
- 1 large leek, trimmed, washed, quartered lengthwise, finely sliced and washed again
- 2-1/2 cups finely sliced celery, including the leaves
- 2 small carrots, cut lengthwise & thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 2 cups tomatoes, diced (I use frozen beefsteak tomatoes or a 19-oz can of tomatoes, cut up)
- 1 lb stewing beef (I prefer organic)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp cooking oil (grapeseed or canola)
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock (I made mine from a bouillon cube)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tbsp dried thyme)
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
Put the beef chunks in a plastic or paper bag or in a large bowl. Sprinkle the flour and a couple gratings of pepper over and toss until the pieces are lightly and fairly evenly coated. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, then use tongs to add the floured beef. Don’t dump in the contents of the bag or bowl, or you’ll end up with too much flour in the pan. Work in batches if necessary; if the beef is overcrowded it won’t brown as effectively. When it’s browned on the bottom it will release; use the tongs to turn over. Repeat until all sides are browned. This process should only take about five minutes per batch. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, garlic, chill pepper, leek, celery and carrots, plus the dried thyme if that’s what you’re using, to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes. This will begin the process of releasing the bits that are stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add the red wine to finish that deglazing process.
Return the beef to the pot, scraping the drippings off the plate (don’t let any of the goodness go to waste). Stir in the beef stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and turn up the heat to bring it to a boil. Immediately turn the heat to the lowest setting. Sprinkle the fresh thyme and parsley over and stir. Toss the bay leaf on top, put the lid back on and let the stew simmer gently for a couple of hours, stirring a couple of times. About 15 or 20 minutes before serving time, taste and adjust the seasonings as required.
When it’s done the broth will be a beautiful rich brown and the meat will be fork tender.
Served over plain boiled potatoes this makes a simple, rustic meal.
(First published January 2014)
Looking for Other Beef Stews?
Let your beef stew be a vehicle that takes you around the world of flavour. Just look at the flavours in Ginger Orange Beef Stew and Middle Eastern-Inspired Beef Stew with Cucumber Mint Couscous.