Beef Stew with Charred Rainbow Carrots
Oh Top Chef you’ve done it to me again. I swear I watch that show and just am blown away but the creativity that comes out of those chefs on the fly and under stressful conditions. On a recent episode one of the chefs charred carrots on a wood smoker and then used them as the star of his vegetarian dish. The judges went wild for it and, for me, it reinforced the idea behind how I like to cook – highlight one simple ingredient to make a twist on a classic dish.
While this isn’t Top Chef and we, as home chefs, have more time to conjure up ideas and think through the details of how we are going to wow our family or friends, there is still plenty of pressure to make a great dish. And while Tom Colicchio may not be the final judge and jury at my house, my kids can make a pretty intimidating panel. Luckily I haven’t been asked to pack my knives and go yet. With my intended audience in mind, I didn’t think a strictly vegetarian dish was going to fly so I went for something more classic and kid friendly – beef stew.
Beef stew might not be the most creative dish on the planet but it does make a pretty good weeknight meal and, like in this version, it can be amped up a bit to make a decent presentation for entertaining as well.
You can switch up the veggies to what your family enjoys but I’d strongly recommend the combination of onions, leeks and garlic as a base. And of course the carrots because that’s the point in this recipe. If you can’t find rainbow carrots then just use regular. My kids both surprisingly like mushrooms and those go really well with beef so I opted to add them in. When you sauté them on their own and take the time to caramelize or brown them you bring out a whole other depth of flavor than if you just stick them in a pot and cook them down with the onions. That’s the reason behind the separate step. But if you are short on time of course they can go in the same pot as the onions and leeks when you add them in at the beginning. On that note, if you do take the time to cook your mushrooms separately the don’t add them back in until the end because they are already cooked.
Let’s talk about the star of the dish – the carrots. The purpose of grilling them is, again, to get that sweet, caramelized flavor from the grill and the balsamic vinegar. You want to keep them al dente (not soft or cooked all the way until tender) because some of them will go back in the pot as the beef cooks down and tenderizes so they will continue to cook until soft but you will already have developed some flavor in the carrot. And the rest that is grilled but reserved is for the top of the stew to highlight the main ingredient and to add a little bit of crunchy texture to the stew. Stew that is all one-note in texture is not as interesting as stew with a little bit of pop from something extra (i.e. breadcrumbs or in the case carrots).
This is a great make ahead dish if entertaining because the flavors will just get better overnight. Just fold the browned mushrooms in when reheating and the reserved carrots and sour cream at the end as a garnish.
Step by Step
Char the carrots
Start with about 5-6 medium rainbow carrots, peeled and the green tops removed.
Slice the carrots into big wedges on the diagonal so that you have somewhat even sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season well with salt and fresh pepper. Fire up the grill or grill pan.
On a grill pan inside or outside lay the carrots in a flat even layer over medium high heat.
Grill, turning periodically, until charred on the outside and glazed but not cooked through.
Remove carrots to a cutting board and roughly cut in half so they are still pretty big cubes.
Make the stew
Start with five large whole cloves garlic. Remove the skins and dice. Set aside.
Next clean the leek. Cut off the top dark green portion leaving the softer white and light green parts.
Slice in half lengthwise and remove the tough outside layer or two.
Slice the leeks lengthwise.
Then cut into pieces and rinse thoroughly. Leeks are very dirty so really flush them with water and pat dry.
Remove stem and outside of onion.
Chop into even pieces.
Prepare the herbs. Chop parsley and set aside. You can either take the leaves of the thyme stems or leave them on the stems and just fish out the stems after it’s cooked down. Either way.
Next get the meat ready. If possible remove the meat from the fridge about 1/2 hour before cooking. it will brown up better. Cube the beef and season well with salt and pepper on all sides.
Place the all purpose or gluten free flour (if making this recipe gluten free) in a large bowl and coat the season beef in the flour flour.
In a large stock pot heat oil (I used about 3 Tablespoons of Canola oil for this) and brown meat on all sides. Do it in two batches if the pot is too crowded. An even layer is ideal for browning.
Set browned meat aside.
If needed, wipe down the stock pot you browned the meat in but a little bit of remnants is great. Just if you have a lot of flour or burned bits behind. Then add more oil and sauté the onion and leeks.
After about 5 minutes add in the garlic for a minute or so.
Then about 2/3 of the carrots. Reserve the rest for garnish.
Next add the browned meat back to the pot.
And of course the wine….
And then fresh thyme sprigs and parsley. I used about 7 or 8 sprigs for the stew and left them on the stems and fished them out later.
Let the soup come to a boil then reduce to simmer. I cooked for about 1/2 hour covered with the lid on and then took the lid off to reduce the liquid for the rest of the time. It just depends on how thick you want your stew or if you want it more soup-like. Covered will cook and tenderize the meat faster and uncovered will result in a thicker stew that might take a little longer. All in all mine took 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Sautee the mushrooms
While that stew is cooking down and doing it’s magic it’s time to prepare those mushrooms. Start by giving them a wipe down with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. You want to avoid rinsing mushrooms as they will become water logged and soggy.
Slice the mushrooms.
Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet over medium heat and add in a little oil and 1 tablespoon butter.
Top the mushrooms with 6-7 sprigs of thyme and season well with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on the first side and then flip and cook until browned on the second and remove from the stove and set aside. Remove thyme sprigs.
Back to the stew
After about 1 1/2 or so hours your stew should start looking like this. Skim off any fat/oil at the top. Test the meat for tenderness and remove from heat if done or keep cooking if not tender enough. Seasoning is important at this stage and should be perfect so make sure to adjust as needed.
Then add those yummy mushrooms back in.
Finish by adding the final two tablespoons of butter and stir to combine. Now you are ready to assemble with the charred carrots and sour cream, herbs and hot sauce.
In a bowl ladle the hot beef stew with mushrooms folded back in. Chop the remaining charred carrots into smaller pieces and
The perfect accompaniment to any stew – bacon cheddar cornbread biscuits (made by my daughter).
- 2 lbs chuck roast
- 1 bunch rainbow carrots or regular carrots (5-6 medium carrots)
- 1 large leek
- 1 medium yellow onion (approximately 2 cups diced)
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1 -8 oz. package baby bella mushrooms
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 cup full bodied red wine (cabernet sauvignon or bold red blend)
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour or gluten free flour
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley plus extra for garnish
- 12-14 thyme sprigs plus extra for garnish
- 1/3 cup olive oil divided amongst carrots, mushrooms and onion mixture (approx 2-3 Tablespoons each)
- 2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Sour cream (garnish)
- Tobasco (garnish, optional)
- Start by charring the carrots. Wash and peel the carrots and remove green top. Slice on the diagonal into large pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Fire up the grill or grill pan. Grill on medium high for 5-8 minutes turning as needed. Cook until charred on all sides but not cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside. When cooler cut in half so they are still big pieces and reserve 1/3 cup for garnish.
- Remove the beef from the fridge 20-30 minutes before ready to cook. Start by prepping the veggies. Clean the leek and dice and set aside. Chop the onion and garlic and set aside. Chop the parsley and pull out 6-7 sprigs of thyme. Cube the beef and season well. Toss in flour and set aside.
- In a stock pot add 2-3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil and, when hot, add the beef and brown on all sides. It may be easier in two batches. When all the beef is browned wipe down the pan if there are any burnt bits.
- Add 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil to the pan and cook the onions and leeks on medium until they start to soften (about 5 minutes) then add the garlic for another minute or two. Add the chopped carrots (less the amount reserved for garnish) Then add back the browned meat, the red wine, the beef broth and herbs. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover for the first 30 minutes and the cook uncovered for remaining time for a thicker stew.
- Make the mushrooms by adding 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil to a cast iron or heavy skillet. Season with salt and pepper and top with thyme sprigs (6-7). Brown and then set aside and remove sprig stems.
- Once the meat is tender and the stew is the desired consistency remove the thyme sprigs, taste for seasoning and skim off any fat. Fold in the mushrooms and the final 2 Tablespoons butter and serve with garnishes. Place small pieces of the charred carrots on top for crunch and color and the sour cream and herbs off to the side. Tobasco or hot sauce on the side for those who desire it.