I love stew in the winter, whether made in the oven, on the stove or in a crock-pot whether made with potatoes or served over potatoes (or even noodles), whether with wine or without, or even with beer. I can hardly wait for a lazy snowy day to make stew, and when winter is over, I always wish I would have made more.
It’s May as I write, and sitting here in a T shirt and shorts with the windows open hoping for a breeze. I can picture the snow piled outside and my son coming in from shoveling with his red cheeks, swaggering accomplishment and asking “What’s to eat? Is dinner ready yet?” My little kitchen warm and steamy, the frost building up on the windows.
I’ll pull my big enameled cast iron pan from the oven (my kids will probably fight over this after I’m gone) and open it to see a delicious, slow simmered melange of vegetables and meat in a heavenly sauce. I’ll serve it up with a crusty bread – and in that moment in time, honestly, who could ask for more?
I have a half dozen or so stew recipes I trot out at various times, each with its own merits and flavors, but this is my favorite, one culled years ago from Cook’s Illustrated. This mimics Boeuf Bourguignon in many ways without the expense of a full bottle of Burgundy. I’ve had many requests from individuals looking for a non-alcoholic version of Boeuf Bourguignon, and I’ve made a few suggestions on this recipe that I use when I don’t have any wine on hand or don’t wish to use any.
A good stew is never inexpensive to make, but if you shop well you can make it at about 1/2 the price (or less) of paying full retail – this recipe also makes eight servings, so hopefully there’ll be leftovers for another meal. Try making Shepherd’s Pie with leftovers – just place the leftover stew in the bottom of a casserole, top with mashed potatoes and bake.
Cook’s Illustrated Stew - Beef with Wine (or not) and Bacon, adapted, 8 servings, $10.24
- 4 ounces bacon, diced
- 3 pounds chuck roast cut in 1 1/2″ pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups red wine (or substitute 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon red or black currant jam or jelly – try it when it’s nearly done, and make your own adjustments from here – check below under Wine.)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 8 ounces frozen pearl onions, cooked according to package directions
- 1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Fry bacon in a large pot, remove and reserve when done, along with two tablespoons of drippings. (keep the rest in the pot)
Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper and brown, half at a time, in remaining drippings. Add a little oil or butter if needed. You will want to thoroughly brown the meat for best flavor.
Remove meat, set aside and saute onion in same pan for four to five minutes. Add garlic and saute one minute.
Stir in flour and cook till lightly colored, about one to two minutes. Deglaze with wine, bringing up to a simmer, scraping up browned bits. (If not using wine, deglaze with the 1 1/2 cups chicken stock.)
Add in the stock (or the rest of stock, vinegar and jelly/jam if not using wine), bacon, meat, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in oven for two to two and 1/2 hours until meat is nearly tender.
Put reserved drippings in a skillet and saute the mushrooms for five to seven minutes until soft and tender. Remove the mushrooms and add the onions, already cooked, and saute until browned, about two to three minutes. Add mushrooms and onions to stew, return to oven and cook another 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon before serving.
This can be served over noodles or mashed potatoes.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
- Bacon: Often on sale. It freezes well and takes up very little room in the freezer, so stock up at the best prices. When I’m adding to recipes for everyday, I buy the least expensive I can find. My cost was $1.98 pound on sale. Regular bacon has about 18 slices in a pound, so my total is 50 cents. If cutting from a cold slab, try taking it out of the package and slicing it on the perpendicular while it’s whole, you’ll need about 1/4 of the package. I often make this stew after I’ve had bacon for breakfast or a BLT on a previous day. Just save a few slices aside, crumble and wrap. (It’s less likely to be someone’s snack that way.) Pour the fat into a small container. The bacon will keep several days and the fat indefinitely in the refrigerator.
- Beef: I never buy beef unless it’s on a deep special what it is referred to as the “loss leader’ – I look for $1.99 a pound for chuck roast, and sometimes I’ll go up to $2.99 a pound. I avoid stew meat – you never know what’s in there and how it will cook up, and the pieces are odd shapes and small, and per pound it’s usually more expensive than a chuck roast on sale. Cost: $6.00
- Wine: I really shop the sales and speak to the employees – I find I can find great wines for a pittance. If you have a wine shop you like, I find you can get mailings or emails for their best sales – often in the fall and spring. My last bottle of a red was $2.75 for a bottle of Yellow Tail – picked up at a gas station while traveling through Iowa. I know, I know, they say always buy a wine you’d drink to cook with, but you’d be surprised at the bargains you can get and how long you can use a bottles in recipes like this and my bargain wine really is quaffable. My favorite wine to use in a stew, though is Beaujolais – always inexpensive in the fall, it’s generally a wine meant to be used and enjoyed, not stored. cost: $1.10
- If you’re interested in substituting, follow above instructions – if you’d like to see a more lengthy discussion on wine and substituting, click here.
- Garlic: Runs around 59 to 99 cents a head in my area in the boxes. It can be a little tricky to discern the best prices because it can also be bought by the pound, and generally you’ll pay less this way. Cost: about 8 cents.
- Chicken Stock: If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
- Onion: Again, buy on sale; they keep well. If you’ve bought too many onions to use, don’t let them go bad. Slice or dice them, give them a quick saute and portion into a Ziploc labeled “onions” for casseroles. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. They say not to store next to your potatoes. My onion was was bought for 33 cents a pound, cost about 20 cents.
- Mushrooms – they do go on special, especially around holidays – I buy between 88 and 99 cents for eight ounces – check to see if your presliced or whole are less expensive. If they’re tightly wrapped, unwrap and cover loosely. Check the bottom of the package and make sure there is no extra moisture there – with care they’ll keep for a week or two. Cost: $1.58.
- Pearl Onions: One of my favorite frozen vegetables to use, along with peas. Look for coupons and sales and stock up in the winter and fall. Cost: 78 cents.
Per Serving: 346 Calories; 23g Fat (63.1% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 809mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
Put Your Spin on It: You can always follow the basic recipe and add potatoes, carrots, rutabegas or any of your favorite root vegetables. It’s hard to go wrong with this recipe. Just make sure you have enough broth to almost cover the ingredients.
My PayOff: This is a large stew, but the good news is that with a dish like this, it truly is even better the next day. I know I can serve later in the week and not have to cook. This also freezes, although the gravy may become a bit thin. I sometimes make a shepherd’s pie or even handpies or pastys if I have a bit left, providing even a third meal.