Beef and Mushroom Stew

We’ve got a variety of stews in our stash of recipes – each with some unique differences that match well to particular tastes or circumstances.  Our Savory Burger Stew uses a mild tomato base and is easy and quick to make – handy on a night when you haven’t planned ahead (which happens too often at our house).  The Chili recipe embodies your more traditional southwest flavors with a blend of chilies, tomatoes, and chili powders allowed to blend and simmer in a slow cooker.  And the Coconut Curry, of course, takes us in a whole new direction with its blend of Asian ingredients, coconut milk, curry and pineapple.

Today, we introduce a stew that uses hearty chunks of beef (another great use for those utility cuts) combined with the pleasant earthiness of sautéed mushrooms.  We’ll add a little bacon (including the fat) for good measure, season with a home-made variation on Dijon mustard, and let it slow-cook for the afternoon (if you can wait that long!).  So let’s get started…

Gather Up:

  • 1-1/2 to 2 lbs of grass-fed beef stew meat – either pre-cut at the butcher or you can take a cut like flank steak, round steak, or chuck and cut it into ~3/4″ cubes.
  • 6 slices of thick-cut pastured pork bacon
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms of choice, sliced (about 10 large white mushrooms here)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-3/4 cup beef stock, divided
  • 2 tbsp dry ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry red wine (we’re using pinot noir tonight)
  • 2 drops red pepper sauce of choice
  • 3~4 tbsp tapioca flour

Start out by frying the bacon in a heavy skillet to about medium crisp.  While that is cooking, you can go to work on chopping the veggies, mincing the garlic, and slicing the mushrooms.  Keep the mushrooms separate from the remaining veggies and garlic.  When the bacon is done cooking, transfer to a plate with a paper towel and set aside to cool.  Pour the bacon fat into a heat-proof container and reserve for the remainder of the cooking.

Add back a tablespoon or two of bacon fat to the pan on medium-high heat, and brown the stew meat pieces in batches.  Transfer them to your slow cooker pot as each batch is completed.

When all of the stew meat is browned and in the pot, add another tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until the onions are translucent and the carrots start to carmelize a little.  You’ll see that this will also loosen some of the bits of stew meat that stuck to the pan while browning – which all adds to the flavor.  Toss these into the pot with the meat.

Next, add in some more bacon fat and sauté the mushrooms – working in batches if needed based on the size of your pan.  Add more fat if needed to keep them from sticking (they seem to soak it up like a sponge!), and transfer to the pot when done.  Remove the pan from heat when complete, for the time being.

Now, we turn our attention to our “Dijon” mustard.  Place the dry mustard in a small prep bowl, and add a little water at a time while stirring to form a thick paste – maybe 1 to 2 tsp total.  This keeps the mustard from clumping when we blend it with the other ingredients.  Add in the sea salt, pepper, wine, and red pepper sauce and mix everything together well.  Add this to the slow cooker.  At this time, you can also add 1-1/2 cups of the beef stock.  Roughly chop up the bacon and add it to the pot now too.

Next, we focus on the “roux” used for thickening the stew.  If you’re familiar at all with traditional roux and methods for preparing one, you’ll recognize why I used quotes for this.  We’re going to have to break tradition a bit and use a little creativity to end up with the result we want while working without wheat flour.  Rather than start with melted fat and adding the flour and then the liquid as you would normally, we’re going to start with the liquid.

Put the skillet you’ve been using for all of your cooking back on the burner on low heat.  Take the 1/4 cup of reserved beef stock and put it in the pan, whisking a bit to loosen anything that might still be stuck to the pan from the cooking. Carefully add 3 tbsp of the reserved bacon fat to avoid splattering and whisk in with the stock.  If you’ve run out of reserved bacon fat from what you started with, hopefully you’ve got a jar of it you keep in the fridge like me – otherwise you can use grass-fed butter for this.  Put 3 tbsp of tapioca flour in a small prep bowl and add about 2 tbsp of water, mixing to dissolve and prevent clumps.  Add this to the stock/fat mix in your pan, whisking constantly.  Very quickly, it will thicken to a sort of jelly (the consistency is a bit unique).  Mix well to ensure that it is fully thickened, then add it to the slow cooker – making sure to use a spatula to scrape all of it out of the pan.

Mix all of the ingredients well in the pot (the sticky “roux” will incorporate back into everything else at this point).  Set the slow cooker¹ to low and let cook for about 4 hours to braise the meat until it is sufficiently tender.  About 1/2 hour before serving, check the consistency of the liquid.  If not thick enough for your liking, mix an additional tablespoon of tapioca flour with water (again, to avoid clumping) and then mix into the stew.

This is best served over a healthy portion of mashed cauliflower, which can be prepared right after you’ve checked (and adjusted if necessary) the thickness of the stew.  Put a good-sized serving spoonful of the mashed cauliflower in a wide shallow bowl, then ladle stew over the top.  Garnish with a bit of minced fresh parsley if you like.  Enjoy!

1 – You’ll notice that my “slow cooker” is actually a stock pot today.  When presented with a lack of planning ahead (such as on the night I prepared this for the blog), you can make this dish using a stock pot and a shorter cooking duration – simmering for about 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.  I do not, however, recommend it, as the meat will end up chewy for not having sufficient time to properly braise at low temperature.  If you are stuck for time and still want to make this recipe, consider instead using ground meat so that you have a head start on keeping things tender.

4 responses to “Beef and Mushroom Stew

  1. Can I use something other than tapioca flour like almond flour? I just don’t want to go out and buy a bag of it if I don’t have to.

  2. Unfortunately, almond flour isn’t going to do anything for actually thickening the mixture. You could use arrowroot powder in place of the tapioca flour, as it is essentially a direct substitute for corn starch – however don’t use it in the “roux” part of the recipe and instead merely add it at the end of the cooking mixed with equal parts water to keep it from clumping. Coconut flour may work more like a traditional flour, but I haven’t tested it myself. You could get by using corn starch itself – which is gluten free but not exactly “paleo” – use it the same way as you would the arrowroot. Given the quantity used in relation to the total recipe volume, I wouldn’t probably lose a lot of sleep over it. Of course, if all else fails, you could let it cook for the last 30 minutes or so with the lid cracked open to allow the steam to vent off. This will essentially evaporate off some of the liquid and allow it to thicken some, but it will likely end up a little more soup-like if you go that route.

    Best of luck – and hope to see you guys back on this side of the Cascades some time!

  3. Forgot to mention – we don’t use tapioca flour all that often ourselves, but have found that it keeps very well in the fridge if you put it inside a zippered freezer bag (or roll it up tight with a binder clip) and stash it in an out-of-sight spot like the bottom shelf of the door (right next to our coconut flour and arrowroot powder).

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