Never mind the fact that it’s December 22nd and it a) hasn’t really snowed yet, b) is about 40 degrees, and c) it’s only the first day of my winter break. Forget all that stuff.
Let’s think about it this way: it’s December 22nd, what would’ve been my Grandma’s 94th birthday, and the cold drizzle and grey skies had me craving one thing: my mom’s beef stew.
I have a long and rather storied history with beef stew. I didn’t even realize it until today actually. Beef stew was one of the first things I cooked in my first apartment, one of the first things I cooked when I moved in with Adam; it’s the dish I make when it first gets cold out, and the dish that I make when I need comfort food. In fact, it was one of the first things I made for my dad the first time he came to see my first “grown up” (read: by myself, well-furnished) apartment, and was the very last thing I ever made for him as well. It’s bittersweet, because now I associate beef stew with an extremely sad time… but I must remember that it can be associated with dozens of not-so-sad times too.
Adam requested that I make my stew a bit differently than normal, as he isn’t a huge fan of lots of red wine in dishes (I know. I don’t get it either). I hesitate to make stews, pot roasts, marinara sauce, or a variety of other things without red wine, so it was a challenge to make a rich-tasting stew without the wine.
I remembered a trick for cooking meat: adding a bit of vinegar to braising or cooking liquid causes some of the proteins in the meat to break down and results in a more tender meat. Nothing has quite the rich flavor of balsamic vinegar, so I opted for that. And some ketchup. You’ll see.
Balsamic Beef Stew
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 1 1/2 pounds lean stew meat
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 8 ounces baby carrots, rinsed
- 5 large red potatoes, quartered
- 2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 Tablespoon dried rosemary
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
- Dust the stew meat with the flour and add to the pot. Brown well, then add the vinegar, ketchup, broth, salt, and herbs.
- Stir well and simmer, uncovered, over low heat for about an hour.
- After the simmering, add the potatoes, carrots, and water.
- Simmer again for about an hour until the potatoes are cooked through and the meat is tender.
- Remove from the burner, allow to cool about 10 minutes, then serve.