This was dinner tonight. Actually, it was leftover from last week and it reheated as if it was just cooked. The meat is velvety and falls apart in your mouth. To quote one of my favorite chefs, Anne Burrell, “Brown food tastes good!”
Growing up, we had beef stew over white rice. Not that “pot roast” stuff that those northern people have. You must call it beef stew, my mother said. I didn’t care for it much because she added potatoes, which became mealy and the rich stock was bastardized into a gravy with kitchen bouquet and a roux. Yes, I really just used the word bastardized in a cooking blog. Ah, the joys of the English language. This is a “beef stew” I can get behind–it’s velvety, fork-tender, and refrigerates well.
Once you learn the basics of the braise, you can create any recipe based on it. Brown your meat very well–take it to the brink of disaster and snatch it back. You want it brown, but not black. Aromatics come next, followed by deglazing. Then, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer–low and slow is the key!
Beef and Barley Stew
By Jason Osborne
3 pounds stew meat pieces (usually cubes of chuck or round without fat)
2 small yellow onions, diced
1 package button mushrooms, sliced
3 celery stalks, diced, plus fronds
3 cloves garlic, minced
thyme bundle (a few springs wrapped in twine + 1 bay leaf)
1/2 cup red wine (I used a cabernet, but Cotes du Rhone is nice)
1 cup beef consomme
1 cup beef stock
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup barley
salt and pepper
Using a large dutch oven and a little oil, sear a batch of meat cubes over medium-high heat on all sides until very brown and crusty. When cubes release from the pan, they are ready to be flipped. Be sure to create a deep brown crusty sear. Remove the meat and reserve. Toss the majority of the juices/fat in the pan. Go a time around the pan with olive oil and cook the onions and mushrooms with salt and pepper until both are soft and have released some of their juices. Add celery and soften. Sautee the garlic a minute or so until it smells.
Deglaze the pan with a glug of the consomme and the wine, scraping up the fond. Add the thyme bundle and stir until the liquids cook down a bit. Dump the meat back into the pot and cover with the stocks, consomme, and water if needed to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer, covered, for two hours.
Add the barley and cook for one additional hour with the lid askew. The stew is done when the meat is fork tender and can be pulled apart with the tines. Season to taste and serve with bread and a green salad. Leftovers, well, there won’t be any leftovers!