Most folks only think of using stew beef for potato & vegetable stew during the winter months. A couple of years ago I discovered the stew beef I was buying directly from my local farmer was typically made up of cuts that tended to be a significantly higher quality of meat than what I found at the grocery store, so I could use it in more ways. For our family, it’s become a great way to eat something more healthy than hamburger while spending about the same amount of money.
Stew beef is great marinated for grilled kabobs in the summer when you have all the beautiful vegetables at the market. It’s also easy to find during the summer months at the market so I typically purchase several pounds at a time and pre-cook some of it with onions and garlic to save some time later when I’m making soup, stew, chili, stroganoff or fajitas. This is so simple you really don’t need much of a recipe.
- For each pound of beef stew you are going to need one sliced sweet onion and one clove of garlic minced. I typically don’t salt or pepper the meat when I pre-cook so that I can adjust the recipe with different salts and peppers later in the process. But it is important to cut up the stew meat so that it’s uniform in size, typically around 1″ squares. And I normally cook up at least three pounds at a time.
- Put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide saute pan or dutch oven and throw in your three onions (for 3 lbs of meat) once the oil has heated up. Cook them until they are just beginning to turn translucent, stirring as necessary so they don’t brown or burn. Add the stew meat and cook that lightly on all of the sides. Add in enough water to cover the meat about 1/3 of the way up. Cover all of it with a tight lid and reduce the heat to low so it continues to simmer for an hour. Leave it alone. The meat should be tender when the hour is up.
- Once your meat is cooked, put it into the freezer in smaller containers for later use in different recipes. I find about 1/2-3/4 lb packages work well for 2 people because you can make most recipes with that amount. Label and date the meat. It will last frozen 90 days.
- Use roasted peppers during the winter if you have them, and fresh red and yellow sweet peppers in the summer to keep your cooking time to a minimum during both seasons.
- You also have the option of adding some additional grilled onions.
- If you like, you can add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 2 tablespoons of your favorite salsa to spice this up more.
- Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Last Saturday, at the Western Wake Farmers’ Market I simply added the fresh chopped red and yellow bell peppers and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Cook up the pasta of your choice. I like to use pasta that will hold onto some sauce. Cook it to “al dente” because it will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Pick up some fresh Shitake mushrooms from the market and either grill them with a bit of olive oil or slice them and quickly stir fry them in some olive oil before chopping them up for your dish.
- Add in 1 additional chopped roasted clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.
- Mix about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 8-12 ounces (cold) beef broth and add this to your beef, mushrooms and seasonings while the pan is on medium heat. The corn starch will thicken the broth as it comes to a boil and keep the recipe gluten-free. (You can use flour if gluten is not a problem for you.)
- Once this has thickened, you can reduce the heat and stir in your noodles along with 1/3 cup of low-fat sour cream.
- Season with smoked Alderwood or Truffle salts to enhance the flavor of the mushrooms. Use less of the truffle salt because it has a dominant flavor. The Alderwood salt is more subtle. (I get this at Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh)
- Garnish with either 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or fresh chopped chives.
- To keep this gluten-free, either use rice based noodles or serve the beef and sauce over long grain wild rice. The nutty flavor and texture of the rice is an excellent compliment to the mushrooms and beef.