A.k.a., a highly improved version of canned Dinty Moore beef stew. Believe it or not, that nostalgic can was the inspiration behind this thick stew with deep notes of red wine and a touch of bright tomato, which happen to create the perfect flavor balance for a hearty meal on a crisp fall day or night. I remember many a beef stew night growing up in the sometimes arctic tundra of Minnesota, but there’s probably a good reason my mom stuck with the can instead of this recipe–perhaps maybe not feeding the kids a half bottle of red wine in their dinner is a good idea? Okay, the alcohol actually cooks off as it completely breaks down the meat into its most tender, juicy form imaginable, so there is no age limit or carding required when you serve this. In all seriousness, though, meals like this bring back the warm, cuddly feelings that go with fall family dinners, whether quickly warmed on the stove or crafted over an entire day.
A lot of stew recipes I screened were served over a grain–rice, mashed potatoes, maybe some luscious cheesy grits, but I didn’t want to add another dirty pot and step to dinner. I wanted a balanced stew with a little bit of everything–feel-good starch already in there (potato), a little residual sweetness (from the wine and caramelized vegetables), a bit of freshness (real juicy tomatoes, instead of paste), healthy and colorful veggies, and, most of all, a certain deep flavor complexity. Really, the beef is kind of a side show, so check out the vegetarian mushroom version below if you’re so inclined.
Sometimes you can’t beat the real thing, so you’ll find just a weeeeeeeee bit of flour in here to thicken it up. I did have an idea, after the fact, for a gluten-free thickener you could try. On Saturday morning Food Network, I once saw mashed potatoes used to thicken the sauce part of some delicious combination of biscuits and gravy plus eggs benedict. I haven’t tried this version, but I think I’ll play with it next time. If you’re feeling adventurous, I would add some mashed potatoes (starting with a half cup) after letting the tomatoes and wine cook off a bit–I’m not sure if the acid in either would cause any dairy content of mashed potatoes to curdle, hence the wait. I’d also make sure to stir frequently, since the starch in the potatoes will likely have the same issue as the flour, sticking to the bottom of the pan if allowed to cook unattended.
The stew was delicious as is, but I’m going to go ahead and offer another variation besides gluten-free. You may want to make this vegetarian. I may want to make it vegetarian, because my taste buds loved it, but apparently my stomach doesn’t do so well with meat anymore. If you have the same problem, check out the mushroom version that I’ve summarized below and will be testing soon! Just as the red wine and tomatoes work to tenderize and flavor the beef, they’ll have the same impact on mushrooms and vice versa, because the mushrooms will release their earthy, comforting flavors into the stew as they cook. Drool.
About the wine. Maybe you prefer not to drink it or cook with it. Totally fine. My recommendation would be to add a bit of tomato paste (in addition to the puree) after stirring in the flour, and also add a tablespoon (to start) of dark brown sugar when you add the stock and tomatoes. Then, simply replace the liquid of the wine with additional stock. If you are using wine but aren’t sure what to get, I adore the Josh Cellars Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. They’re easy to find, inexpensive, and great to drink since you’ll be “stuck” with an open bottle (please note: no finishing the bottle if you’re under 21!).
You might be best off saving the prep for a lazy fall weekend, because the cooking time is pretty active (and a little long) due to the sticking issue I mentioned. It’s an excellent freezer meal, though, so freeze it right off the bat or save half for an emergency busy night. Speaking of busy nights (oh hey, clever transition), I just got back from a surprise getaway with my IT guy, and it was up there as one of the best surprise trips ever. Ummmm, only surprise trip ever? Either way, it was beyond relaxing. After a two hour drive, we arrived at the East Hampton Art House and settled in as the only tenants for the next two days! The house and grounds were perfect on their own, but the extra touch of the owners’ artwork as the main decor added so much character and charm. Honestly, I never would have pictured myself liking a place like this (I usually go for really clean and simple design), but it won me over without much effort. My favorite were Rosalind’s watercolor pieces all over the place.
- 2 lbs. beef chuck stew meat
- 3 T butter
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 4 large carrots; peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1 inch pieces
- ¾ lb. yellow onion (3 small), diced
- 2½ T flour
- 2 C dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Malbec)
- 3½ C beef stock, no salt added or homemade
- 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 t dried rosemary (optional), or 3 fresh sprigs
- 1½ lbs. russet potatoes (2 large)
- 1½ C frozen peas
- ⅓ C chopped fresh parsley
- Sour cream, creme fraiche, or goat cheese (for serving; optional)
- Cut beef into bite-sized, 1 inch chunks (chop pre-cut pieces further if needed).
- In a large (at least 5 quart) Dutch oven or pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once bubbling a little and just darkening, add half the beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper before stirring. Increase heat slightly to keep temperature up, and stir occasionally. The beef will emit liquid, then it will evaporate and the meat will turn darker brown. Don’t worry about overcooking the beef at this stage—the red wine, acidic tomatoes, and slow cooking later will tenderize it. Once browned moderately (around 10 minutes total), carefully remove to a heat-proof bowl.
- Decrease heat to medium, add the last tablespoon butter, then the remaining beef, seasoning and repeating the above process.
- With heat at medium high, add the carrots and onions. Brown bits will stick to the pan at this point, which is fine. Turn down the heat a little if it becomes unmanageable and smells burnt. Cook about 5 minutes, until softened. Reduce heat to medium, add flour, and stir gently to coat the vegetables until you can’t see white powdery flour anymore. This will help thicken the stew as it cooks.
- Add wine (it will sizzle and cause the brown, flavorful crust to release from the pan), stock, tomatoes, and rosemary (if using). Stir to incorporate, then add the meat back to the pan slowly, to avoid splashing. Increase heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer (medium-low or medium) and partially cover. Cook for 50 minutes. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure the flour and vegetables aren’t sticking.
- While the stew cooks, peel and cut the potatoes and add after 50 minutes is up. Continue to simmer, this time fully covered, another 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Again, stir frequently to avoid sticking.
- Add the peas and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, uncovered this time, until peas are thawed and warm. Turn off heat and stir in parsley. Let stand 5 minutes off heat, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sour cream, bread, or on its own.
*Adapted from Dave Lieberman’s stew recipe.
Nutrition facts don’t include sour cream served alongside.
Vegetarian or Vegan Adaptation
As of original post date, adaptations are untested.
- For the beef: 2 lbs. white button mushrooms (about 3 pkgs.), cleaned and halved
- For the butter: 1 1/2 T olive oil (for vegan)
- 2 1/2 T flour
- For beef stock: vegetable or mushroom stock
- Use only half a 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (about 3/4 C total)
- Omit dairy garnish for vegan
Begin the recipe by cooking the carrots and onions in oil over medium high heat, skipping browning the meat. Proceed as above, adding the flour, then the liquids and rosemary, and bringing to a boil. Add mushrooms after reducing to a simmer, then proceed as directed, cooking for about 45 minutes each both before and after adding the potatoes.