Make a Great Stew in 5 Easy Steps
Stew is a great dish to make-ahead for a family meal, to be able to stay out of the kitchen when hosting a party or just to ensure you have leftovers for quick and easy meals later on. Once you learn the basics, you can cook anything from beef stew with carrots and potatoes to chicken stew with white wine and thyme.
This first step might be the most important step in creating the rich flavor for which stew is known. Season your meat well with salt and pepper, dredge it in some flour and sear it in a very hot pot with oil until it’s nicely browned. It’s best to use a heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven because it holds heat much better, but any pot large enough to hold all of your ingredients will work. The flour helps create a crust on the meat and to thicken the broth. At the end of this process, brown bits should be stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Remove the seared meat, pour in more oil and sauté your vegetables in the same pot. Stir the vegetables often until they become soft.
Once your vegetables are tender, add a splash of wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with a heat-resistant spoon or spatula, to get all of the flavor from the brown bits stuck to the pot absorbed into the wine. Red wine is best for flavoring beef or pork, and white wine is best for fish or poultry. Allow the wine to boil until it has reduced by at least half and there’s no more alcohol flavor.
Build your stew
When the wine is cooked down, put the meat back into the pot along with the liquid you’re using for broth. Use stock from the type of meat you’re cooking (chicken stock for chicken stew, beef stock for beef stew, etc.). At this point, you can also add herbs. Any stew can benefit from some thyme, and many can benefit from a little bit of sage.
Cook your stew over low heat. You want your broth to be just bubbling lightly, not boiling. The time you need to make sure the meat is tender and all the flavors blend depends on what type of stew you’re making. Soft fish needs to simmer for only 15 minutes, but tough cuts of beef need to simmer for as long as two hours. After the meat becomes tender, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.