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Beef Stew

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recipe adopted from The Science of Good Cooking.  [Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings].

This past week in Wisconsin, we had some unusually cool weather as we dipped down to the 30s.  So in turn, I over reacted...completely skipped over the fall season...and made a hearty winter dish.  With the 10-day forecast now predicting weather in the upper 60s and low 70s, I'm pleased to know that I have quite a bit of time to enjoy some fall dishes and desserts before the snow sets in; it is still summer for another week!  Regardless of the weather, beef stew is a comforting, rustic dish that is a favorite to many.

I ended up using a new recipe from The Science of Good Cooking because it promised to deliver on flavor.  Prior to the recipe, this book talks about how savory dishes like beef stew can take their savoriness to the max, and the general message is that you need ingredients rich in glutamates paired with ingredients rich in nucleotides.  Glutamates are are a type of amino acid that enhance flavors (like MSG, which is short for monosodium glutamate).  Examples of foods that contain glutamates include soy sauce, tomato paste, cured ham, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and red wine.  Nucleotides on the other hand are found in meat, seafood, and dried mushrooms.  Now although glutamates are flavor enhancers, the amount of savoriness they can add to a dish pales in comparison to the amount that is produced when they're in combination with nucleotides.

In short, [glutamates] + [nucleotides] = [substantial boost in flavor in savory dishes].

And that's why this recipe calls for tomato paste, salt pork, garlic, onions, and red wine in combination with anchovies and beef.  The combination between the ingredients produces an end product that is significantly greater in flavor than if they would have been if combined with other non-glutamate/nucleotide ingredients.  So the next time you're out with a group of friends and you have a savory dish that just screams flavor, you can let them know what's up. 


2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at seams, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8-inch thick
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine, such as Pinot Noir
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces salt pork, rinsed
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 300° F and adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position.  Using a chef's knife or a fork and bowl, create a paste out of the garlic and anchovy.  Mix in the tomato paste and reserve.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil followed by half of the cubed beef.  Cook until a nice color is achieved on all sides, roughly 8 minutes.  [Side note:  The key to gaining caramelization on the beef is to turn the meat as little as possible.  Constant stirring will result in cooked beef with little to no color].  Using a set of tongs, transfer the beef to a plate.  Add the remaining oil along with the second half of beef.  Cook the second batch the same as the first.  After 8 minutes, add the previously cooked beef back to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the chopped onion and carrots and cook for several minutes.  Stir in the garlic mixture and cook for an additional minute.  Add the flour and stir in until the meat is evenly coated.  Add one-third of the wine and stir until the sauce thickens.  Add the remaining wine and stir.  Increase the heat to high and bring the wine to a simmer.  Stir in the broth, salt pork, bay leaves, and thyme.  Bring back to a simmer, cover, transfer to the oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from the oven and discard the bay leaves and salt pork.  Stir in the potatoes, cover, and place back in the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and skim off any excess fat using a large spoon.  Add the pearl onion and cook on the stovetop over medium heat for 15 minutes.  While the stew is cooking, pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top.

After 15 minutes, increase the heat to medium-high, stir in the gelatin mixture and peas, and simmer until the stew thickens, roughly 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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  1. Wow, this looks amazing! Love the food science lesson! What is the function of the gelatin? Do you just prefer a thicker texture or does the gelatin add something to the flavor profile? Thanks for posting this!! :-)

    1. Tekesha - glad you enjoyed the post! The gelatin doesn't add to the flavor profile; rather, it imitates the texture you'd have, had you used a homemade beef stock. Homemade stocks use bones to add flavor, but also to release gelatin naturally found in the bones. Since we're using a pre-made broth in this recipe, gelatin is added at the end to give the stew a "luxurious texture, as if the stew was made with rich homemade beef stock"...according to ATK.