My family loves a classic beef stew made with red wine and tomatoes, but after an overzealous shopping expedition at a farm stand I found myself with a lot of apple cider in the fridge.
(What is it about cider at a farm stand? Is it possible to NOT buy a couple of jugs? Especially if they are smart enough to give away little samples. Who drinks a little cup of cider, and says “Ahhhh. Delicious. Nope, I don’t need any more, that one sip hit the spot, thanks.”?)
Success. This apple cider beef stew is a nice change of pace, according to the gang, and next time I might even put some cubes of firm apple into the stew towards the end.
Browning the Meat for Stew
One of the few things that is a bit of a chore when you are making a stew is browning the meat before adding the liquid and letting it do its thing for a couple of hours. I think it’s an important step is getting the best flavor from the meat, and a nice texture too, but I usually don’t have the patience have to brown all “sides” of the cubes of meat to achieve this goal, just a couple of sides will get you there. I recently read that you could buy your stew meat in one big flat piece, sear the hell out of the two sides, then cut it into cubes, which is such a smart shortcut.
The amount of cider will range depending on the type of pan you use, how long it takes your meat to become tender, and how saucy you like your stew. You can absolutely make this ahead of time and reheat. You can stop the stew after two hours, and then reheat and continue with adding the vegetables, or just make the whole thing start to finish and then reheat. You’ll probably need to add still more cider either way.
What to Serve Beef Stew With
Serve this with a crisp salad, maybe something with a hint of spiciness or bitterness. I served it up with Spinach, Radish, and Kohlrabi Salad with Preserved Lemons and Bacon, Fresh Corn and Oregano Cornbread. A real winter feast.
Other stews for those chilly nights:
- Moroccan Lamb and Butternut Squash Stew
- Indian Spiced Chicken and Potato Stew
- Slow Cooker Barbecue Beer Beef Stew
- Provencal Fish Stew
Apple Cider Beef Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion sliced
- 2 large leeks sliced and rinsed (white and light green parts)
- 1 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch chunks
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons apple brandy Calvados, cognac or brandy (optional)
- 1 ½ to 3 cups cider
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 large baking potatoes peeled and cubed
- 3 large carrots peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Season the beef with salt and pepper and sprinkle it with the flour. Place a large pot, or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat until it shimmers, and add the meat in a single layer; don’t crowd the meat, you may have to brown it in two batches. When it is browned on the bottom, after about 2 minutes, turn it and brown the other side for about 2 minutes (you do not need to brown all sides of the pieces of meat). Transfer the browned meat to a large plate. Pour off all but two tablespoons of any remaining fat in the pan (if there is a bit less, that’s fine, too).
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pot, over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks and thyme until they are very soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the leek mixture to the plate with the beef.
- Return the pan to medium high heat and add the brandy, if using. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cider and continue to stir, scraping up the flavorful bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cider vinegar and tomato paste, then return the meat and leek mixture to the pot. Lower the heat to medium low, and cook the stew at a gentle simmer for, partially covered, 2 hours, until the meat starts to become tender. Add more cider if the stew starts to look dry – you want some good sauciness.
- After 2 hours, add the potatoes and carrots, and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender. You may need to add still more cider towards the end if the stew looks like it needs more liquid.
Browning the MeatOne of the few things that is a bit of a chore when you are making a stew is browning the meat before adding the liquid and letting it do its thing for a couple of hours. I think it’s an important step is getting the best flavor from the meat, and a nice texture too, but I usually don’t have the patience have to brown all “sides” of the cubes of meat to achieve this goal, just a couple of sides will get you there.
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