Clean-Out-The-Fridge Beef Stew
I’ll be the first to admit that cleaning is not my strong point. I like to say that it’s because I have a creative soul, but it probably has more to do with my general laziness. If I really focus my energy on it, I can clean, but most of the the time I do a pretty half-assed job.
I’m having to change my tune these days though because Betsy has already left for Colorado (she’s there actually!) so I’m left to my own devices and it’s my responsibility to make sure our apartment is spotless before I leave.
I’ve been saving the fridge for the last thing because who knows what lurks in its dark depths…
At the same time I wanted to make sure that I used as much of the food as possible before I left. After asking you all to comment on what one-pot dish I should make, it seemed like a stew-like dish was the favorite which worked out perfectly with my clean-out-the-fridge idea because turns out that you can throw almost anything into a beef stew.
Yield: Serves 2-4.
1 pound good quality beef. I used a sirloin steak, cubed.
1 small onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
2-3 jalapenos, diced
Handful of carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can black beans
1 can corn
2 Tablespoons oil, (canola or grapeseed works best)
1/2 Cup red wine
2-3 Cups water
1 Teaspoon paprika
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted if you want
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Garnishes: Shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, avocado, crackers
NOTE: This is my version because it's what was in my fridge. Add to it, subtract from it. Make it your own. The whole idea of this stew is that you buy as few things as possible. The only things I bought just for this dish was the beef and the avocado.
1) Mince all your veggies to roughly the same size. If you're using jalapenos and/or garlic, you might want to mince them finer just so you don't get a big bite of one.
2) Cube the beef and dust it lightly with flour.
3) In a medium heavy pot, add a few tablespoons of neutral oil over high or medium-high heat. Once hot, add beef and brown well on all sides.
4) Remove beef but leave any oil remaining. Add vegetables to pot and stir. Turn down heat slightly if veggies are burning. If the pan is dry, add a bit more oil. Cook for a minute or two until veggies are just starting to soften up. Add a pinch of salt.
5) Add red wine and deglaze pan, scraping up browned bits from the beef with a spatula.
6) Once deglazed, add beef back to pot and cover slightly with water. Bring to simmer, add spices, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid is reduced and beef is tender.
7) Add beans and corn if you're using them. Stir and simmer for a few more minutes.
8) Serve immediately with garnishes.
Again, the key to a stew like this is to buy almost nothing. You could add a ton of different veggies. In fact, I think you could add almost any vegetable to it and it would probably be good.
I chopped up everything so it was roughly the same size except for the jalapenos and garlic which I minced a bit finer. This took a bit of time but it’s really the only work involved in this stew.
You could get away with a lot of different cuts of beef for this. Almost any roast or steak cut would work. The thing about roasts is that they tend to be a lot tougher so you’ll need to cook them longer to soften them up. I bought a small sirloin steak that I cubed up which was pretty tender to start with so it didn’t need as much simmering.
I dusted the cubes in a pinch or two of flour just to dry them out. This will help them brown and also make the sauce thicker in the end. A very light coating will do the trick.
Starting the stew
Add a few tablespoons of a neutral oil to heavy pot if you have it. Ideally, you would have a dutch oven or something cast iron so it can get nice and hot and sear the beef well. I only have one medium-sized pot with me so that’s the one I used.
Add the oil and crank up the heat. When the oil is glistening, add all your beef and let it brown nicely on each side for a few minutes.
See all that browned stuff that stuck to the pan? That’s the most important part. That’s where all the flavor and color is going to come from in the stew.
When the beef has cooked for a few minutes and is nice and browned, remove it but try to keep the oil in the pot. Add all your veggies to the pot next and turn the heat down to medium. If the pan looks really dry, add a bit more oil, but it’ll probably be okay.
Stir this all together and add a pinch of salt. The veggies will start to pick up some of the brown bits as they cook.
I moved most of my spices already but kept a few standards that I figured might come in handy. The only thing I wish I had for this that I didn’t have was some good chili powder. It tasted fine without it though and I wasn’t going to buy it or make it just for one dish.
These guys provided plenty of flavor for me.
Back to the stew
When the veggies have cooked for a minute or two, add the red wine to the pot. It’ll sizzle and hiss, but use the liquid to scrape up any left over little bits on the bottom of the pan. This is called deglazing and it’s important.
After you scrape up all the bits, add the water to the pan along with the beef. Add enough water to just cover everything. Some recipes call for beef stock or something, but I think water is the best bet. It keeps the flavors really clean and as you can see, there’s plenty of color from browning the beef earlier.
Bring this all to a simmer and add all your spices. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then add your corn and beans.
Let this all simmer together for as long as you want! Try a piece of beef and make sure it’s seasoned well and tender. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed and also cook it until the sauce is fairly thick but not gravy thick or anything.
This was my finished pot!
If you’re like me, then you like stew with avocado and some Greek yogurt or sour cream. I also love it with crumbled tortilla chips and cheese, but I had some yogurt so I went that route.
So while I might not be good at cleaning in general, I think I’ve done an okay job at cleaning out the fridge at least.
And I’ve eaten well along the way!