Beef stew is one of my favorite comfort foods. I've made it off and on for years, always delighting in trying recipes that add new flavors to the mix.
As any frequent maker of beef stew knows, it is one food that can take on a host of different ingredients. The base is usually the same -- chunks of chuck roast or other cheaper cut of beef, along with carrots, potatoes, onions, maybe some celery. But the taste is in the gravy. And this is where the fun comes in.
You can imagine my delight as I thumbed through a recent addition of Taste of Home and found a recipe for Mushroom Beef Stew. Well, yum, I said to myself.
The basic premise sounded good, but I started thinking of ways to tweak it. Besides wanting to make it my own, I realized that this was not an inexpensive meal. It called for an ounce of exotic dried mushrooms, which costs around $5. Plus a pound of portobello mushrooms -- add another $5-$6. I was already at a minimum of $10 before I even added the cost of the meat -- another $10 for 2 pounds of chuck. Twenty dollars, and I had not added in the cost of vegetables.
I think of beef stew as an economical meal, and $20-plus seemed too pricey to me. I ended up using a half-ounce of dried mushrooms, 8 ounces of portobellos and 8 ounces of white mushrooms. The total cost of the stew came to around $16. Still more than I liked, but I did save a few dollars.
Now, for the add-ins. The recipe called for serving the stew over pasta. I prefer stew as an all-in-one dish, so I added potatoes instead. After three hours of simmering, they made for a nice consistency. Also, during the last hour, I poured in about two cups of dry red wine. Wine brings the flavor of any dish to a magnificent crescendo, don't you think?
The blue cheese sprinkles added at the end are not listed as optional in the original recipe, but they clearly are. I did use them and thought they made a nice addition to the flavor. Blue cheese is something entirely new to keep on my list of ingredients from now on. It went particularly well with the flavor of the red wine I added.
Here's the recipe from Taste of Home. Served with crusty garlic bread and a tomato-guacamole salad, this was an excellent meal that made enough to freeze for another dinner.
Mushroom Beef Stew
1 carton (32 ounces) beef broth
1 ounce dried mixed mushrooms
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 boneless beef chuck roast (2 pounds), cubed
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound whole baby portobello mushrooms
5 medium carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
Hot cooked egg noodles
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
In a large saucepan, bring broth and mushrooms to a boil. Remove from heat; let stand 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms are softened. Using a slotted spoon, remove mushrooms; finely chop. Strain remaining broth through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside mushrooms and broth.
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, salt and pepper; set aside 1 tablespoon for sauce. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, to the remaining flour mixture and shake to coat.
In a Dutch oven, brown beef in oil in batches. Add the portobello mushrooms, carrots and onion; sauté until onion is tender. Add the garlic, rosemary and rehydrated mushrooms; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in reserved flour mixture until blended; gradually add mushroom broth.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beef is tender. Serve warm over hot noodles and topped with blue cheese. Makes 9 servings.
To freeze: Cool stew; transfer to freezer containers. Freeze for up to 6 months.
To use frozen stew: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Place in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water until smooth; gradually stir into the pan. Return to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.