There’s this misconception about guisos or stews: they are hard to make. But guisos are extremely easy to prepare and not to mention economical to feed an entire hungry tribe. These easy stews just take a bit of time and patience until the protein in the meat breaks down, the juices are released, and all the flavors come together. But, that time usually goes unattended.
FEEL-GOOD FOOD Guisos are super comforting, yet they are humble in nature, rich in flavors, and needless to say, very fulfilling, and perfect to make ahead of time and for the entire family. We call them comfort food because they makes us feel so good.
STEWING UP SOME SECRETS Yes, all you need is love…and one pot, a good cast iron pot like Le Creuset, or a slow cooker—which I don’t have, so I stick to how my mom used to make it: the old-fashioned way. Going back to the pot…everything goes in there. How easy is that! Then you either let it cook on the stove for 3-4 hours or so, or in the oven. Whichever works best for you. I have tried both ways. Letting it cook in the oven helps me to keep my hands off the stew instead of checking on it all the time and wishing it was done already.
Read Related: Frugal Foodie: Enfrijoladas
MEATY TIPS WORTH NOTING
Yes to browning the meat first. • Nothing worse than a bland guiso. So, please do brown the meat at the beginning. It helps to develop more succulent flavors and richer colors.
Breaking down your own roast. • Pre-packaged stew meat often delivers unknown, diverse cuts of beef in very inconsistent sizing—critical for even cooking. So with that said, I do prefer to cut my own stew meat and I hope you get inspired to do the same.
The best cut. • Definitely buy the shoulder of the animal. This meat is tough, full of beefy flavor and inter-muscular fat. That fat is going to melt into the meat keeping it super moist and tender, and with very rich flavors. Besides, this cut is very economical, like flat iron steak, shank, or chuck eye rib.
Cutting the meat. • Start by removing any excess fat and silver skin. If you are working with a large piece, separate in smaller pieces just by tearing it apart with your hands along any fat line. Meat should come apart easily, but if it doesn’t or you don’t want to use your hands, use either a chef knife or boning knife—the best to get inside the cut and remove any fat and silver skin (that filmy tissue that coats the meat, either inside or outside of the meat that never breakdowns during cooking like fat does, but becomes tougher and tougher as cooking time increases) due to its flexible blade.
Remove silver skin. • Locate the silver skin and slip your knife underneath it, make a cut and pull it out.
Remove excess fat. • Remove external, hard, big chunks of fat, those that never melt. But leave the marbling (or internal fat) alone. You want to keep that fat.
Size does matter. • Once your meat is cleaned and trimmed, cut in even pieces just between 1-inch or 1½-inches for easier browning and cooking.
Great job! Wasn’t too hard, was it? Now, before you move onto the next step, gathering the rest of your ingredients for these easy stews, remember to wash your cutting board and hands thoroughly.
CLASSIC & COMFORTING BEEF STEW For an extra addition or twist to this classic you may add dumplings or perogi. I prefer to use tuber or root vegetables instead. Serves: 2
Ingredients 4 lb. beef for stew, shank, or chuck eye, trimmed, excess fat and silver skin removed, diced in even pieces of 1 or 1½ inch in size ½ cup all-purpose flour or Wondra sea salt or kosher and fresh pepper 2 TBSP unsalted butter, ghee or lard 8 oz. white onions, sliced 1½ lb. potatoes, quartered 4 cups beef stock (homemade or store-bought), low in sodium, preferably organic, or water