From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Dutch Oven Classics
The taste of beef stew is rarely as complex as its rich aroma would lead you to believe. We wanted a rich-tasting but approachable beef stew with tender meat, flavorful vegetables, and a rich brown gravy that justified the time it took to prepare.
Step one for achieving rich meaty flavor is proper browning. If you crowd the pan, the meat ends up steaming in its own juices, so for a big pot of stew, it’s important to sear the meat in two separate batches. After browning the beef (beefy-tasting chuck-eye is our preferred cut for stew), we caramelized the usual choices of onions and carrots, rather than just adding them raw to the broth.
Along with traditional stew components like garlic, red wine, and chicken broth, we added ingredients rich in glutamates like tomato paste, salt pork, and anchovies. Glutamates are compounds that give meat its savory taste and they contribute considerable flavor to the dish. To mimic the luxurious, mouth-coating texture of beef stews made with homemade stock (provided by the collagen in bones that is transformed into gelatin when simmered), we included powdered gelatin and flour. The rest of the recipe was simple. We added frozen pearl onions toward the end of cooking along with some frozen peas. As for potatoes, medium-starch Yukon Golds added halfway through cooking beat out starchy russets.
Serves 6 to 8
Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.