Sweet & Savory Beef Stew

Today's comfortable 20 degrees is a welcomed change from the last couple of sweltering 35+ degree days (Celsius that is), so a nice sweet and savory stew beckoned to me. Frugality reigns supreme with this dish as a tough, cheap cut of meat is the star of the show. Any other expensive cut of beef would easily dry out and lose it's flavor, while the fat and connective tissue in an cheap cut creates tender, melt in your mouth morsels with a rich meaty broth.

My favorite part of this stew is the sweet tang of the gravy and the lively earthy tones that stirring in some fresh herbs from the garden brings. If you are going to eat a stew in the middle of summer, this one should be it.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Shrink & Be Merry

Serves 4

1.5 lbs of stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or balsamic)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 large carrots, chopped
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil and the cubes of beef (depending on how big your pot is you may have to do this in two batches). Cook until there is no more liquid coming out of the beef, and the meat moves from a grayish color to a more golden brown color. You'll also have a layer of caramelization right on the bottom of the pan. Once browned, add the onions and celery and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. If the pan is getting too dry add a tablespoon or so of water and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom (that's all flavor). Add the garlic, dried thyme, and dried rosemary and cook about a minute. Stir in the broth, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer with a lid on for about 45-60 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer 20-30 more minutes until the carrots have softened.

Before you are ready to serve, stir in the sour cream, frozen peas, fresh basil and fresh oregano and remove from the heat. The residual heat of the stew will cook the peas through. Serve with Herb Cheese Biscuits.

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The juxtaposition of the sweet and savory in this stew is irresistible. The broth has a mild sweetness with further pops and bursts of sweet summer peas in every bite along with the fresh and lively flavors of the herbs. This is hands down, without a doubt, no questions asked, MY FAVORITE STEW. This will be made year round in our house.

For more inexpensive meal ideas check out $5 Dinner Challenge