At the store this week, chuck steak was on sale. I saw this as an opportunity to make my Easy Weekend Beef Stew. This hearty dish is low in calories (340 per 1-1/2 cup serving), low in fat (13 grams) and high on flavor. I recommend making it without a lot of additions the first time. But after that, feel free to make your own additions and changes to make this your own. After all, I stole this from Mr. Food.
First, brew a pot of coffee. Actually, you don’t need a whole pot, just a couple of cups, one of which will go into the stew. The rest you can drink as you look over the Sunday newspaper waiting for the lovely stew to get going.
This recipe is good for more inexpensive cuts of beef, like chuck, round steak or flank steak. Making a pot of this is handy for eating the rest of the week, so don’t get hyper about the amounts.
We’re using only a single pound of beef in this dish. You’ll recall I advocate eating more vegetables than meat. Don’t worry, we’ll make plenty of beef flavor.
Next, wash your meat! No, bachelors, I’m not talking about taking a shower, although that is not a bad idea. I’m talking about rinsing off the one pound of beef after you open the package from the store. I think you should wash anything you can in the kitchen. While you’re at it, also wash about 6 medium potatoes, 3 stalks of celery, about 3 carrots, and a medium onion. Don’t have that many potatoes and carrots? No problem! Use what you have. It just won’t be as full of veggies. Lay all the cleaned meat and veggies on clean paper towels to drain.
Put 2 cups of water in your measuring cup, drop in a beef bullion cube and stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes to get the water warm enough to melt the cube. Got beef stock? Use about a cup of that with a cup of water. No bullion cubes? That’s okay, you can skip it. The point of this dish is to use what you have on hand.
Speaking of hands, make sure you keep them clean throughout this process by washing them with hot water and soap often. Wiping them off on a dish or kitchen towel just won’t do.
Don’t worry about cutting up the vegetables yet. We’ll get to that. Now I want you get out a shallow bowl or pie plate and add 3 tablespoons of regular all-purpose flour. Also add in a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper and maybe a pinch or two of other dry spices you like with beef. This can include paprika, basil, oregano, cumin or garlic powder. Mix the flour well. Stay away from the hot spices for now because cooking will concentrate them and it can get too spicy.
Pat the beef dry and cut into 1/2-inch chunks, about bite sized. Put the beef pieces into the flour mixture and use your hands to toss the meat around until every piece is completely covered with flour. This should use nearly all of the mixture. Don’t throw the leftover flour mix out. We’ll use that later.
Put a large saucepan or soup pot on medium heat and add a 1/2 stick of butter or 1/4 cup of olive oil. When hot, add in the floured beef pieces and brown on all sides. The more browning, the more flavor, but don’t burn it. Use a wooden spoon to move the meat around from time to time. This should take about ten minutes. The flour may turn a little grayish, but that’s okay.
Then add the water (or water & stock mixture), a cup of coffee (a CUP, not a mug), a teaspoon of dried thyme and a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. If you have it, you can also use a little anchovy paste or asian fish sauce. I also like a teaspoon of hoisin sauce with all meat dishes. Mix the ingredients well and bring the heat up to medium high until it starts to boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about an hour.
Now, I know that seems like a long time, but remember you’re using a cheap cut of meat and it takes time to make it tender. Trust me it will work and you shouldn’t have to watch it. You can, if you feel the need, give the pot a stir a time or two, but as long as the heat is low it should be okay. Take your coffee and go watch the game or whatever for about 45 minutes. Then, go cut your vegetables. You want everything to be cut into large, bite-size chunks. Be sure to peel the potatoes, the peels just turn into a mess in this application. Add them to the pot along with the leftover flour mixture if you have any. If you have it, a teaspoon of browning and seasoning sauce from the store will help this a lot, but it’s not necessary. Crank up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then bring the heat back down to low, cover and let it stew for about another hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Stop off in the kitchen from time to time and give it a stir.
Remember, always taste the gravy to adjust the seasoning. If it tastes a little muddy, add a splash or two of red wine vinegar. Try that before you add any more salt. Now serve.
Leftovers can go into plastic containers, something any good bachelor should have, and are great popped into the microwave for a minute or two later in the week. You can even freeze some for later. Serve with a slice of crusty bread if you have it.