When the fall and winter seasons start gearing up, beef stew is something I try to make every few weeks. It's always such a comforting meal that tastes even better the next day. The house always smells amazing and everything comes together so deliciously.
My abuelo recently relocated to South Carolina to live with us after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and one of his favorite meals is carne guisada served over white rice; so I've been asked to make it more often. Traditionally, Puerto Rican carne guisada is made with sofrito, seasoned with Sazón con achiote, and has lots of potatoes with thicker, reddish sauce. After learning how to make classic beef bourguignon in culinary school, this is my take that doesn't take hours to make. I like introducing dishes to my family that they typically wouldn't eat and it's safe to say, they prefer my beef stew now. In this house, we like our stew kinda soupy – the more broth and sauce for the rice, the better. If you prefer a chunkier stew, use less stock or cook it down longer.
Chunky vegetables, tender beef, and a good sauce is all you need for this dish. There are a lot of small steps that have to be done for this dish to come together so make sure you have your mise en place (putting everything in its place).
I also always add red wine to my stew. Honestly, it gives the stew so much body and is classically part of the recipe, so I wouldn't recommend skipping it. And when the alcohol cooks out, you’re left with a deep and glossy flavorful sauce. Trust me on this. You don't have to spend a ton of money on the wine either; just make sure you buy a bottle of wine that you would drink. That's key! If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. Here we go!
Cook time: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Vegetable oil or bacon fat (I prefer bacon fat for stews)
2 pounds of chuck beef, cut into small cubes
2 large red onions, quartered
4 large carrots, peeled and cut on a bias
5 stalks celery, cut on bias
2 containers white button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 small bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 bottle of red wine (see note from earlier)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh oregano
4-8 cups unsalted beef stock (I keep homemade on hand, but a good carton stock is fine)
In a large pot or Dutch oven, pour in enough oil or bacon fat to coat the bottom of the pan. While that's heating up over medium-high heat, pat the meat dry with a paper towel and then liberally season the beef with kosher salt and black pepper. Next, in small batches, sear the meat in the oil until it's browned on all sides. Working in small batches is key here. You don't want to crowd the pan and steam the beef.
Searing the beef allows you to collect all the good bits of flavor on the bottom of the pan and helps keep the meat moist. When removing the beef from the pot, keep the beef in a bowl to collect any additional juices (these will go back into the stew).
Once all of your beef is finished being seared, leave the fat and good crusty bits (known as fond) in the pot. Then, add your onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 10 minutes while stirring often to pick up all of the flavor on the bottom of the pot. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Then, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Next, the tomato paste. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir and then sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and tomato paste mixture. Make sure to incorporate the flour fully since you don't want to have any big white patches of flour floating around. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Next, slowly add the 1/2 bottle of wine to the mixture while stirring at the same time. Cook for about 4 minutes to develop some flavor and fully mix in the flour. Everything will resemble a thick soupy paste, which is normal here. Don't fret, because once you add the stock, it will look more like a stew. Next, add the stock and when you do, make sure to add it in batches to make sure you avoid lumps with the flour. If you add too much liquid at once, it makes it hard for everything to come together nicely. I usually start with 4 cups and eyeball it from there based on my preference.
Once you have the liquid at the consistency that you prefer, add the meat and its juices to the pot. Then add the fresh herbs and the bay leaves. The leaves from the fresh herbs will fall off while cooking and you can just fish the stems out before serving. Cook over medium heat for at least 30 minutes to reduce and thicken. Obviously, the longer the better, but if you're pressed for time, 30-45 minutes is the least you can do. Personally, I prefer my stew to cook down for at least one hour and I cover the dutch oven for the last 20 minutes or so.
Serve the stew over a bowl of hot, steamed white rice, plain noodles, mashed potatoes, or solo with a nice piece of crusty bread. You'll have leftovers with a large recipe like this, so serve it up and enjoy the stew. The flavors taste even better the next day!