Beef Stew with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Beef Stew with Polenta (premade) and Parmasen

To start off, this isn't one of the quick and easy receipes that could be features on Rachael Ray's "30 Minute Meals". This meal takes some commitement. But the rich stew and creamy polenta you end up with are worth it. And to make you feel better for the 3 hours you'll spend on making this the first time, if you make enough to freeze a few servings, the stew freezes and reheats great!
I divided this receipe into 2 parts. The first part is the stew, which of course, can be served without the polenta. The second part is the receipe for the polenta.
Ingredients for Beef Stew
  • Olive oil, for searing
  • 1.5-2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 6ths
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or to cover
  • 10 cups beef broth or cold water (broth leads to a more intense favor)
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium red or yellow potatoes, quartered --> do not use russet potatoes, the texture is not right for a stew
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 5 (for step 2, 1 tbsp of tomato paste can be substituted) + 7 medium sized tomatoes (for step ___, canned whole tomatoes can be substituted), cut into medium-large pieces
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste

Cook's Notes:

  • You will need some kitchen twine for this recipe.
  • Beef chuck, from the shoulder, because of its marbling of intra-muscular fat, is the choice for any type of stew. If you can't find chuck cubed for stew in your meat department, buy a thick chuck steak and cut it into 2-inch cubes.
  • I've found that using tomato paste in step 2 leads to a much more tomato-y (how's that for a word?) base for the stew. I'm not really a big fan of tomatoes so I use fresh ones because the tomato flavor is much more subtle than when using the paste. By the way, I totally cannot spell tomato.

Directions for Beef Stew

  1. Heat a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. You can also use a large soup pot with a well-fitting lid. Pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/4-inch deep. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, and add to the pan. Saute half the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well-browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef. Discard the oil and wipe out the pan.
  2. If using a Dutch oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. If using a pot, you will not be using the oven. Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the 5 chopped tomatoes (or tomato paste) and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved beef and scatter the flour over the vegetable and beef mixture (enough to lightly coat) and cook stirring until lightly toasted. Add the water or broth, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen twine and add the bundle to the pot. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste. Cover and transfer to the oven (if using the Dutch oven) or cook over low simmer on the stove. Cook the meat until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove pot from the oven (if using the Dutch oven). Skim the fat from the cooking liquid with a spoon or ladle. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove and discard the herb bundle. Stir in the vinegar (taste as you go along...too little and the flavor isn't right, too much and you may have just ruined an entire pot of stew!) and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. If serving without the polenta, divide among bowls and serve. Remaining stew can be frozen.

Ingredients for Polenta

Polenta is now readily available in most grocery stores. You can either by it in a roll that just needs to be reheated, or you can buy uncooked, dry polenta/corn meal. I prefer the uncooked because it is so easy to make and tastes a little fresher than the roll. The crappy picture I included is featuring the premade roll of polenta instead of homemade polenta.

  • ~1 cup Dried Polenta or Corn Meal
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions for Polenta

  1. Boil water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add dry polenta until mixture begins to thicken. Continue to stir and add polenta until mixture is like a think gravy, but not too thick. The polenta will continue to absorb water over the next few minutes so there should be some free water in the pan.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add grated Parmesan and butter, stir to combine.
  4. To serve with the stew, add a serving of the polenta (~1/2 cup) to the bottom of a bowl. Fill remainder of bowl with beef stew and top with some freshly grated Parmesan. Serve and Enjoy!

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