Perfect for dinner on cold winter nights, stews are a soul-warming dish that’s great for the flavorful meats and vegetables in your holiday pantry. But it’s more than just a dish; it’s also a technique, and it takes more than just throwing ingredients in a pot and turning up the heat to get it right.
“You can stew just about anything: carrots, apples, tomatoes,” says “A Chef’s Life” host Vivian Howard, who demonstrates the proper stewing technique in this video.
Howard, who owns her own farm-to-fork restaurant in North Carolina, says when you make a stew, “it’s all about building flavor.” She outlines three key principals to producing a delicious, hearty stew.
First, the liquid base should just cover your ingredients, not drown them. Meat and vegetables aren’t “bobbing around and floating, but just covered.”
The pot is also essential — something with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid, like a Dutch oven, works well.
Finally, the flame underneath your pot shouldn’t be too high. “Never bring it up to a fast boil,” Howard says. “You want to bring it up low and slow, and let it cook at a low temperature for a long period of time.”
To test Howard’s technique at home, try her beef stew recipe below.
Chef Vivian Howard makes a delicious beef stew that will keep you warm on cold fall nights.
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds well-trimmed beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 ½ to 2 cups beef broth
1 pound small white new potatoes, halved or quartered if larger than a golf ball
1 pound large carrots, cut into 3-inch lengths
Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat bacon grease in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add meat to pot and cook undisturbed until bottoms of pieces are seared and deeply browned; turn meat with tongs to sear all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Move browned meat to large bowl.
Add onion and celery to pot. Stir to scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan. If the mixture begins to stick or scorch, add ¼ cup water and stir well. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in ketchup, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and 1 ½ cups broth.
Return meat and any accumulated juices to the pot. The cooking liquid should barely cover the beef, so add more broth if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover tightly, and cook at a bare simmer until the meat is so tender that you can easily pull off a piece with tongs or a spoon, about 2 hours. Don’t let the liquid boil.
Stir in potatoes and carrots. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. The cooking liquid will be thin, but flavorful. Check seasoning and serve hot.
Note: For best flavor, cool stew, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Discard any fat that solidifies on top. Reheat gently before serving.
Credits: Produced by Markay Media/Deep Run Productions; Featuring Vivian Howard; Culinary Producer Sheri Castle; Music by Django Haskins