Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hearty Beef Soup

Winter in New York is an interesting season for eating, to say the least. There aren't a lot of options out there for fruits and vegetables. The cold, wet days make me not want to leave the house (in nicer weather, I am much more apt to make a journey to pick up some dinner ingredients). I crave thick, satisfying foods that feel like home and warmth.

I am also madly in love with my dutch oven and will look for any excuse to use it (and having the oven on for a few hours makes a slightly chilly apartment so much nicer).

Cooking over the last week has been a little difficult with a new puppy running around.


 We just, today, figured out a way to keep him in the kitchen so we don't have too many messes on our carpet. He hated his crate and we were waking up to a poop-covered puppy regardless of what he did before bed and after waking up, so something had to change. Dan and his dad spend this afternoon building a barrier between our living room and kitchen (who wants to spring for a baby gate when lumber is so affordable?). It has a handle and wheels and everything! It also is going to provide me with a surface to decorate. I don't see a downside! But before this change, I constantly had to keep an eye on him to make sure he wasn't doing something that he wasn't supposed to be doing.

This beef soup was easy to make, didn't require that much prep, and allowed me plenty of moments to run in and check on Zepp. It has also lasted me all week, which made my life so much easier between puppy care, work, and a visit from my parents.

Pan cooking this meat should only involve searing it to develop the flavor of the soup as a whole. Only a couple of minutes per side, in as many batches as you need. I needed three because of my small dutch oven (I can't wait to be able to afford a bigger one!).


There wasn't a lot of meat in this. I wanted it to be more vegetable heavy because we've drastically reduced the amount of meat we consume. If you want more meat, double or triple the amount I use (and double the size of your dutch oven).
I love big chunks of vegetables in my soups. I've been leaving my onions in thick slices and my carrots cut into chunks on the bias. Leaving the onions so large actually resulted in a more pronounced onion flavor and provided a pleasant, soft texture in the soup. I also love biting into big chunks of sweet, rooty carrots. Really you can cut these however you prefer in soups, but give it a try one day. Not only does it save some time if you're in a rush, it creates an entirely different soup experience (also handy when you're low on vegetables and want a hearty soup that feels like it has a lot of ingredients).

Scrape up all those brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (handmade by your dad, if you got it). This was probably one of the best things I ever learned from watching America's Test Kitchen and learning more about cooking. Flavor improves dramatically when you brown the meat before and incorporate all of the juices and left-behind pieces into the meal.

I let this cook until the onions were soft and just turning golden.

I cut the potatoes while the onions were cooking (and in between peeks at Zepp) so they wouldn't turn brown while I waited. Alternatively, you can do all the prep before and leave the potatoes in a big bowl full of icy cold water (your coldest tap water setting should be fine). This keeps the potatoes from turning brown too quickly (also works with apples).

I cut the potatoes very small because I thought it would be a nice contrast with the big chunks of carrots and slices of onion. I didn't cook it as long as I'd initially intended to, but had I allowed it to cook as long as I  would have liked, the potatoes would have broken down much more creating a faux roux.

The meat, the broths, the potatoes, and some frozen peas were all added at the same time.


 I brought this to a boil and then stuck it in the oven. I've adjusted cooking time and temperature for the recipe to what I would have done had I had more time. It would result in beef that was even more tender and flavorful than mine. I just got a late start and ran out of time.

It was still delicious and exactly what I needed for a winter meal.

Sprinkle with some parsley and serve.

Stay tuned for my entry recipe for Beet n Squash You, hosted by She Simmers and Gourmet Fury AND my new blender (a fabulous birthday present from my parents, which I cannot wait to use!).

Serves 6-8

2 Tbs olive oil
1 small package of beef chuck for stew (I used 0.86 lbs)
1 large onion - halved and sliced
6 medium carrots - peeled and cut thickly on the bias
3 cloves garlic - minced or squeezed through a press
3 medium red potatoes - peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup chicken broth
fresh/dried parsley to taste
salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F with rack positioned on the middle level.
  • Pat meat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Sear each side - about 2 minutes. Do not crowd the pan. If the pan is too crowded the meat won't brown properly and you will end up with steamed meat. Remove each batch from pan and set aside on a plate. Add a little more oil if you have to between batches.
  • Add onions and carrots. Sprinkle with salt. With a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the onions are translucent and turning golden.
  • Add the garlic and stir to incorporate. Cook 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the meat, broths, potatoes, and peas and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and place in oven.
  • Cook at least two hours and up to four hours.
  • Season with parsley, salt, and pepper to taste and serve.
This would be great with a thick, crusty bread or crispy garlicky croutons.

1 comment:

  1. Liz,

    This soup looks delicious. You're right about the dutch oven too. One of those warm, wonderful meals that can be served over a few days when you're in a hurry. Keep up the good work! Looking forward to more recipes.
    Zepp looks adorable. Anne