Caramelized Onion Beef Stew
Mess Level: High
Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 3 hr
- 2 lb Chuck Roast
- 3 Large Yellow Onions
- 1 Large Sweet Potato
- 8 oz Baby Carrots
- 4 Medium Red Potatoes
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
- Salt to taste
- ¼ Cup All Purpose Flour (optional)
- Oil for searing
- Slice two of the onions into very thin slices.
- Cut the meat against the grain into bite-sized pieces. Season the flour with salt and pepper if using and toss the beef chunks in the flour until they’re lightly coated. If omitting the flour, season the meat with salt and pepper. In the bottom of a large, soup pot, heat oil to medium high and then brown the beef briefly, turning with tongs. You don’t have to go nuts, just get some color on them.
- Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, add more oil and then add the carrots. Allow them to sit undisturbed until they char. Remove the carrots, adding a little water if needed to loosen them. Add the sliced onion to the hot pan, adding more oil if necessary. Stir and reduce the heat to low, then cover with an offset lid and stir every three to five minutes. The lid is going to trap the steam but the crack for air will help them brown faster. Do not forget to stir or you will burn them black to the bottom of the pan and have to start over with a new pan.
- Allow the onions to caramelize for 30-40 minutes until they are a rich, deep brown color and very soft.
- Meanwhile, cut the other onion into thick slices and dice the potato and sweet potato.
- When the onions are soft you can either blend them with a cup of stock if you want a thicker, sweeter stew or just add the stock directly to the pan. Stir to scrape up the yummy brown bits at the bottom of the pot.
- Add the red potato, beef, and onion, saving the sweet potato for later. Add the Worcestershire, sugar, pepper and some salt. Bring to a boil and then turn to very low heat and let it simmer with the lid on for at least an hour. Check the meat for tenderness, if it’s very tough still, let it go for another hour before adding the sweet potato.
- When the meat is tender, add the sweet potato and let cook an additional 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if it seems at all bland. Serve and enjoy!
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Why does my stew meat come out chewy?
- Slow down and relax...
You have your heat too high so the muscle fibers tighten up or you didn’t cut it against the grain... If you cook it low and slow, the fibers just slowly let go and will be yummy and tender. If you cut it with the grain, however, you left a lot of that connective tissue intact which will take a lot longer to break down while cooking.
What is an “Offset lid?”
- It’s really fancy... ready???
It’s a pan lid that you don’t put on the pan all the way, allowing a small crack for air. Like when you don’t want potatoes to boil over.
Why is there a sweet potato in your stew?
- Orange is the new black...
Because sweet potatoes in a savory dish are my one true love, my weakness. If you don’t feel the same you are free to leave any offending vegetables out of your personal stew.
What does tossing the meat in flour do?
- Just watch Julia & Julia and you'll understand...
It just creates a yummy crust and thickens the stew the tiniest, non-noticeable bit. Sometimes I think I only use flour because Julia Childs would do it. But if you have a dietary restriction or are feeling a little lazy, by all means just use salt and pepper. After all, we don’t need to flour a ribeye to get a nice crust on it and the same principle applies to stew meat.
Ramblings of a Line Cook
Meat and Potatoes are a hard combo to beat and yet I find a lot of beef stews to be lacking in flavor. You see, I wish for a little more “oomph” in my food. Something that says “I’m your dinner and I’m here for you, please enjoy a warm bowl and forget all your troubles.” I’m not asking too much out of a bowl of stew, am I? I think not… If it’s going to call itself a stew it might as well act like one.
Stew should have a dark, viscous, flavorful broth that makes you close your eyes in happiness. But I just wasn’t getting that with most beef stews so I thought I ought to do something about it and caramelized onions seemed to me, the perfect solution.
If you’ve never had proper, caramelized onions before you’re in for a real treat. Like many things, if given time they can be amazing. The natural sugars in the onion slowly go from white to golden to a deep, rich amber brown. The onions become sweet, soft and rich and once they reach that point, you cook them for another few hours into the stew and they become nothing… giving up all of their flavors to the broth. And it is oh so, good and leftovers are even better the next day!