The Best Way to Make a Stew

Westend61/Getty Images
Westend61/Getty Images

Can a lazy fall Sunday spent watching football actually be improved upon? Only if the rich aroma of meat, slowly braising in wine, is wafting through your house. Luckily, making a hearty stew is practically a foolproof process. Just take whatever meat, veggies, and starches you have at the ready; toss them into a pot with some stock, a decent bottle of wine, and seasonings; and let it all simmer to perfection while you relax on the couch. Our favorite recipe comes from chef David Shea. Succulent grass-fed-beef short ribs are the star ingredient, and one key technique sets this recipe apart from the mushy stews you endured as a kid: Three-quarters of the way through cooking, Shea removes the spent starter vegetables, which have given all their flavor to the stock, and replaces them with seasonal root veggies, for a hit of earthy sweetness, and kale, a green strong enough to stand up to the braise. “It really couldn’t be easier,” Shea says. “And it’ll taste even better the next day as the flavors mingle in the fridge. Reheat it as is, or toss the whole thing with some pasta.” Set a fully loaded pot on the stove in the morning, and you’ll be eating by game time.


First Braise:
• 1 tbsp canola oil
• 5 lbs 2-inch grass-fed-beef short ribs (bone-in)
• salt
• pepper
• 1 bottle red wine
• 3 large peeled carrots, ½ stalk celery, 2 medium Spanish onions, all cut into 1-inch pieces
• About 3½ quarts beef or chicken stock

Second Braise:
• About 3 lbs mixed root vegetables, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (Shea uses 3 small rutabagas, 5 small turnips, and 6 medium russet potatoes.)
• 1 head garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
• 2 sprigs thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 bunch kale, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips

The Technique

Step One
Brown the Meat. Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper. Place pot over medium heat. Heat the oil until it just begins to shimmer. Add the ribs and sear them on all sides. Do this in stages so as not to crowd the pot – and pay close attention: Burn the meat and the dish is ruined.

Step Two
Deglaze the Pot. Once the meat is seared, remove it. Now pour yourself a glass of wine, and add the rest of the bottle to the pot. Give everything a stir to lift all of those great caramelized bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn heat up to high, and allow the wine to reduce by half.

Step Three
First Braise. Add carrots, celery, and onions to the pot, then ribs, then stock. Bring to a simmer. Never let it boil – you’ll get greasy stew. Cover and simmer for at least 4 hours.

Step Four
Save the Jus. With a slotted spoon, remove ribs gently and set aside. Strain what remains in the pot through a fine sieve. Discard the vegetables but not the juice – it’s liquid gold.

Step Five
Second Braise. While everything is hot, pour the cooking liquid back into the pot, and add the root vegetables, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Place the ribs back in the pot, and return to a simmer over medium heat.

Step Six
Skim the Fat. For the next hour, simmer uncovered, occasionally skimming fat from the surface. If the broth looks too thin, up the speed of the simmer; too thick, slow it down some.

Step Seven
Let It Rest. Take the pot off the heat, and add the kale, gently stirring it into the stew. Check seasoning, then pull out the bay leaf and thyme. Let the stew sit for 15 minutes, filling the room with an awesome aroma.

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