by Karin Calloway
Beef stew was company food when I was growing up. Although the hearty winter dish uses inexpensive stew beef, my mother’s version was company worthy. Based on a recipe from a neighbor, the stew contained browned beef, red wine, beef broth, carrots, onions, potatoes and green peas. The red wine, along with dried thyme and bay leaves are what took the stew from family food to company fare.
While my mother’s recipe calls for cooking on top of the stove, I’ve found that the dish can be prepared almost unattended in the oven. Butter and vegetable oil are heated in a roasting pan and the beef is added to brown in a 400 degree oven. This unattended browning of the beef is a coup for busy cooks, and only takes 15 to 20 minutes.
The oven method used for the stew makes it a snap to prepare, while maintaining the flavors of the stew of my childhood. Serve the stew as the centerpiece of a hearty winter meal with a green salad and crusty bread. The potatoes may be omitted from the recipe, and the stew served over broad egg noodles
Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, red wine and beef broth. Cover, return to oven and cook 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven again, and stir in the carrots, onions and potatoes. Return and cook 45 minutes more. When done, stir in peas to heat through, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings.
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