This is a classic beef stew recipe from Family Meals, written by Canadian chef Michael Smith. I’m not sure about making it on a weeknight, as it benefits from at least two hours of simmering, but it’s perfect for supper on a chilly November Saturday or Sunday. And it’s even better the next day. I added scallions, fresh herbs, and peas to the basic recipe.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for tomatoes with no additives, such as Unico or Blue Menu brands. I used a wine with a sulfite level of fewer than 10 parts per million and Imagine organic chicken stock. If you add chickpeas, bacon or cheese, make sure they don’t contain colour, additives, or nitrites.

Brown the beef well

Simmer the stew for a couple of hours; if there is too much liquid, simmer with the lid off

Weeknight or Weekend Beef Stew

Ingredients:

For the classic weeknight stew:

2 pounds (900 g) of cubed stewing beef

2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

2 potatoes (or 2 or 3 parsnips or 2 sweet potatoes or a turnip), chopped

A 28-ounce (796 ml) can of whole, diced, crushed or pureed tomatoes

1 bottle of big, beefy red wine (pour some for the grown-ups first!)

4 cups (1L) of beef broth or plain water

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of sea salt

Lots of freshly ground pepper

Weekend finishing flourishes- choose 1 or 2 or all

4 green onions, thinly sliced

Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh thyme, sage, tarragon or rosemary, minced

1 to 2 cups (250 to 500 ml) of frozen green peas

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and chopped

A 14-ounce (398 ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1 wheel (5.2 ounces/150 g) of your favourite Boursin cheese, crumbled

Preparation:

Heat your largest, heaviest pot over medium-high heat while you gently dry the beef on a few paper towels. Splash a pool of oil into the pot, swirling and covering the bottom with a thin film. Using tongs, carefully add a single sizzling layer of beef without crowding the pan. This is your only shot at adding the rich, deep flavours that can only come from respectfully browned meat. Listen to the heat. A simmering pan means nothing. Sizzle is the sound of flavour. Too loud, though, and a sizzling pan becomes a smoking-burning pan. When the beef is deeply browned all over, transfer it to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the beef, 10 to 15 minutes in total. Pour off any excess oil, leaving behind any browned bits of goodness.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, wine, broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Return all the beef to the pot. Stirring frequently, bring to a furious full boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Cover tightly and very gently simmer for at least an hour, another if you can, stirring now and then, patiently tenderizing the meat, releasing the richness and building deep beefy flavour. Serves 4 to 6.

From Family Meals by Michael Smith