I am loving the weekend of snow we received in Central Pennsylvania. I love the crunch under my boots. The way it reflects light into the night time sky and makes everything pink. I’ve been living in the south for the past five years, and before that I lived in the mild climate of Santiago, Chile, so I’ve been missing real winters.
The key to getting through the cold and bleak winter is to spend as much time outside as possible. My husband learned how to ski this weekend. We went on a snowy afternoon trek with our dogs. Shoveling snow is a great workout. There’s nothing like a hearty warm meal after a day outside. Beef stew is one of the most simple yet satisfying meals for a cold winter’s day.
This stew was simmering to perfection when my brother got home from a hike up the mountain near my parents’ home. He said it was the perfect meal after coming in from the cold. Serve it with a loaf of crusty whole grain bread and a stout. Of course, I recommend that everything is served with a stout.
Butternut squash is not traditionally included in beef stew, and you usually include potatoes instead of rutabagas. But I love the contrast of sweetness with the beef, and the aromatic quality of rutabagas. Rutabagas also have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes and are rich in fiber and minerals.
Dredging the meat in a mixture of flour, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and browning it before adding it to the stew accomplishes two things. The drippings and flour add flavor and thicken the stew, and browning the meat insulates the meat, locks in moisture and adds a slight crust.
Pearl barley is an ancient grain that lowers cholesterol, keeps blood sugar stable by slowing starch digestion and also provides fiber. My mom always adds barley to her beef soups to counteract the cholesterol in the beef.
In addition to cooking the stew for an hour, it is thickened by mixing together some of the broth with the flour remaining from dredging the meat. Whisking together a small amount of broth with the flour before adding it to the rest of the soup avoids any lumps.
Beef Stew with Root Vegetables
(Adapted from Whole Foods)
- 1/4 cup white flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or table salt
- 1 lb. lean beef, cubed (round or premium stew beef works well)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon reserved
- 2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup yellow or white onion, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup rutabaga, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 6 ounces dark beer
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 1 quart beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- Peel, chop and prep the vegetables and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
- Dredge the meat: making sure that all pieces of meat are dry (to avoid popping in the oil) coat all sides of the meat in the flour, salt and pepper mixture. Reserve left over flour mixture.
- Add flour-coated meat to the oil and turn over with tongs, browning all sides.
- Remove meat from oil and set aside to cool. Meat should not be completely cooked through.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir to avoid left over flour from burning.
- Sauté onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms and rutabaga in oil for 5 minutes. Stir frequently so that vegetables do not burn.
- Add beer to the vegetables, stirring out the carbonation.
- Whisk 1/4 beef broth and flour mixture together until smooth. Add to vegetables and beer.
- Add barley, butternut squash and bay leaves. Stir together.
- Add remaining broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for 1 hour until meat is cooked through and stew thickens.
- Salt to taste and serve with crusty bread. Stew will continue to thicken as it cools.