Long ago, the cooks of the world discovered the efficiency of simmering tough meat in tenderizing water. They also discovered that they could add lots of local flavour to make the results more interesting. Today, beef stews are a part of cuisines and cultures around the globe. This one features the bright familiar flavours of the Southwest.
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
few splashes any vegetable oil
2 pounds stewing beef, cubed
4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 whole head garlic cloves, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded and minced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 14 ounce can pinto, red or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Thoroughly dry the beef by patting it with paper towels; dry beef sears better.
Preheat a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot. A thin film is not enough. Add a single layer of the beef cubes. Brown evenly, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the meat sizzling. Medium-high heat usually works best. Be patient, this is the only chance you’ll have to add the rich deep flavour of caramelization to the moist stew.
Rest the browned beef on a plate. Continue with the rest of the beef, browning it in batches. Add more oil as needed. Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the onions and garlic to the empty hot pan and stir well with a wooden spoon, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue until the onions are golden brown. Add the red and jalapeÃ±o peppers. Stir in the chili powder, canned tomatoes, beans and the browned beef.
Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue at a low simmer over low heat for an hour or so.
When you are ready to serve, stir in the frozen corn and cilantro.
For an extra layer of flavour, try grilling the meat first before simmering it. You may also top each serving with shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream.
Braising is my favourite cooking method. I just love the way it can transform an inexpensive, tough cut of beef into a tasty tender stew. Toss in the earthy flavours of root vegetables and aromatic red wine, and you are well on your way to a rich flavour base. But the real secret to a truly memorable beef stew is patiently browning the meat.