The Hand Off: Cherry Beef Stew
For all intents and purposes, there is nothing as simple as a stew. Take some ingredients (veggies, meat, whatever you think can be stewed), toss them in a pot with a liquid (water and stock are standard options but beer and wine are popular additions in our house), cook low and slow, and that’s the long and short of it. Carrying over the fruit and meat theme from Zack’s Spicy Orange Beef we concocted a stew-pendous idea: “Let’s use wine, beef and dried cherries in a stew!” Catherine – really keen on the cherries, and Chad – loving the idea of using alcohol (yet again) in a meal or baked good.
We had two main objectives: creating the stew and entertaining/watching Nathan, our toddler. Chad, with a tad more culinary experience, took the lead on the cooking, and Catherine, with a tad more Nathan wrangling experience, took the lead on the child watching. We include our son in cooking ventures using a learning tower, which places him at counter-top height. He’s entertained by watching us prepare the food, and he gets to “practice” using his own bowl and any utensil that cannot be used as a dagger. Now, with roles assigned, and a good friend to take photos (why take photos yourself when you’ve got friends, right?) we were all set!
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We found a recipe to give us a good base to work with, but we took it our own direction…
Cherry Beef Stew
Cook time: a tad over 2 1/2 hours
Total time: almost 3 hours
Yield: 4-6 adult servings
- 2 lbs beef, cubed
- 3-4 Tbs olive oil
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 2 cups onions, chopped
- 2 cups carrots, sliced thin
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 3-4 Tbs flour
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper, to taste
- To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, with the racks at the bottom positions.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, allspice, and cinnamon.
- Note: At this point you can be pretty creative with your spices. Beef, and practically any meat you stew or slow cook for that matter, goes very well with allspice. Cloves are also used a lot in French style beef stews. If you want a savory stew, thyme and rosemary do wonders. I went with allspice, and some peppers and cinnamon to add some kick and to compliment the cherries.
- Heat half of your oil in a frying pan at medium-high.
- Add your beef, in batches, to coat in the flour and spice mixture, and transfer to the frying pan to brown the beef. To brown properly, do this in 3 or 4 batches (depending on the size of your pan). I use a cast iron skillet, but any good heat conducting pan will do for the browning, about 5 minutes per batch.. Once the meat is browned, transfer it to a French oven (or any other oven safe, deep pan) – don’t turn the heat on yet!
- In a small bowl, combine the water, brown sugar, and vinegar. Mix until the sugar is dissolved.
- Turn the heat under the frying pan to medium, add the remaining oil, onions, and cherries. Coat the onions in the oil then add the water mixture. Cook until the onions brown and soft and the water has evaporated. About 15 minutes.
- Add the onion and cherry mixture to the beef in the French oven. Add the wine to the frying pan to deglaze (scraping lightly with a wooden spoon), then add that wine to the beef, onion, and cherries along with the beef stock. Add your bay leaves and garlic cloves, cover, and put in the oven for 1 hour.
- Take French oven out, add carrots, and place it back in the oven for one more hour. With 30 minutes to go, remove the garlic cloves and bay leaves, cook uncovered for the remaining amount of time.
- Let the mixture cook down or add more wine/stock to reach your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve and enjoy some amazing stew with your leftover wine!
The stew warmed our bellies just as we’d hoped. The cherry flavor turned out more subtle that originally suspected but complemented the flavor of the beef very well. We ended up not having to add any salt for flavoring which earned the dish more healthy points. This is certainly a dish we would make again and be happy to share with friends.
The Veesers reside in Ferndale, MI. Chad is a future Jeopardy champion and District Director for the Boy Scouts of America. Catherine is a Physical Therapist and cousin to RecipeRelay’s own Brianna Bain. Nathan Veeser is almost 2 years old and has just received his Masters in Vocalization of Engine Sound Effects.