Beef stew is comforting. Don’t deny it. It’s also really easy to make. Mix all your ingredients together and let it do its thing. No babysitting. The problem is that it takes sooooo long to cook for the meat to become tender. Then again, it’s called stew for a reason. By definition, it means to cook something…slowly. Stewing is not fast.
There are a lot of methods to make stew, like using a slow or pressure cooker, which I do like, but the best stew I’ve ever had is braised in the oven for at least 2 hours. You could make this during the week if you had the time. Right. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have two hours between work (or taxiing the boy around to various extracurricular activities) and dinner time. Therefore, I like to make this dish on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I can smell the homey deliciousness of beef and veggies. There needs to be a candle for that.
For stew meat, I’ve learned to avoid the stew meat packages like the plague. Yes, it’s all pre-cut and very convenient, but you really have no idea what cuts of meat you’re ending up with. It could be a combination of different types, all that cook at separate times, so in the end, you end up with some tender pieces and some tough ones. Blah. Instead, buy chuck meat and cut it up yourself. I’m sorry, but trust me on this one.
Don’t forget to season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Unless you are on a medically prescribed low salt diet, you do not need to avoid salt. It brings out the flavor of meat. It’s also better to season as you go instead of all at the end so start now.
When you’re cutting up your veggies, try to cut them in similar sizes. Your carrots don’t need to be the same size as your celery, but your potatoes should be the same size to each other. I tried that here by cutting in half and then in quarters.
After you’ve chopped your meat and veggies, toss it all together in a baking dish.
Combine tomato juice (the secret ingredient!) instead of beef broth, water, tapioca (your thickener instead of flour), and seasonings. Pour it over the meat and veggies. Cover it with foil (to braise it) and pop it in the oven. Then, go find your happy place. Maybe that’s watching a TV show or reading a book. For others, it’s hiding in the closet, taking a nap. Not judging.
A couple hours later, check on it. The meat should be tender and your vegetables fork tender, but not falling apart or mushy.
Eat with bread. Yum. This is also a great dish to make ahead, chill, and bake later.
- 2 pounds chuck beef cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 medium potatoes halved and then quartered into 1" pieces
- 4 medium carrots cut into 1/2" chunks
- 2 stalks celery cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 medium onion large dice
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Coat a 9×13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In the baking dish, combine beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. Mix well.
- In a large bowl, combine tomato juice, water, tapioca, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over beef and vegetables.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 – 2 1/4 hours.
- To make ahead, follow the recipe and then chill. Bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.