Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beef, Barley, and Sweet Potato Stew

Do you ever have those evenings when you're all set to start a recipe and you realize that you're missing a key ingredient? I'm sure you would never do such a thing, but that's exactly what I did this weekend. Saturday afternoon was dreary and rainy, just the kind of weather where you want something warm and comforting simmering on the stove all afternoon (coincidentally that's just the type of day where you don't want to run to the store at the last minute). I was excited to make Hungarian Goulash for the first time when I realized I had forgotten an ingredient at the store. I was in a bit of a pickle. There I was with 2 lbs of thawed beef stew meat on the counter and nothing to make with it. My husband was elbow deep in flour making homemade Parker House Rolls from Beard on Bread to go with the goulash. So what was a girl to do? Improvise and make beef stew! This template from The Kitchn was a really helpful starting place. And you know what? It was hearty, rich, and flavorful. What a happy accident!
Serves 5-6

2 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized cubes and pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
1 Tb tomato paste
~1/4-1/3 cup barley
1 Tb cornstarch
salt and pepper

Heat a dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. When hot, swirl in enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

When the oil is hot, sear your meat (you'll probably need to do this in several batches). Add meat to the pan in a single layer. Let sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes for a good sear to develop; then flip each piece to sear the other side. After another 2-3 minutes, remove the meat to a clean plate, and sear the remaining batches. (Meanwhile, don't be afraid of the blackened bits that are collecting along the bottom of the pan. That's building flavor for your stew!)

Add in another teaspoon of oil, lower the heat to medium, and then add in your diced onion. Saute for a couple of minutes. Then add in the diced celery, carrot, and sweet potato. Let cook for another 5 minutes or so until everything begins to soften.

Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, and add the garlic and thyme to the open center of the pan. Let it cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, and stir to combine with the veggies.

At this point, pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up all of those browned bits.

Pour in the chicken broth, beef broth, tomato paste, reserved stew meat, and the bay leaf. Top the pan off with water, if required, such that the liquid just covers the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil. Then cover, and reduce the heat to low. Let the stew simmer for at least an hour, or until the meat is tender.

About 30 minutes before the stew is done, add the barley, and stir to combine. Continue to simmer until done. 

A few minutes before you're ready to serve, ladle some of the broth into a small bowl and whisk in about 1 Tb of cornstarch. Once dissolved, stir back into the stew, and let simmer for a few minutes until your soup begins to thicken. 

Remove the bay leaf and serve!


  1. This looks wonderful! And perfect for this recent chilly weather. Thanks for sharing! Xo, M&K at

    1. Thanks! I feel like all I've been in the mood to eat for the last month or so are soups and stews! It's definitely that time of year!