Q: I'm looking for the best beef stew recipe out there. I just made a stew with a lot of classic vegetables, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and parsley, and it still seems a little bland. How do I add more "kick" to my stew?
Sent by Jamie
Editor: Jamie, in our minds, there are two keys to really great beef stew. First, a really thorough browning of the meat. For this, we turn to a fabulous quote by Robert Farrar Capon:
"It sounds absurdly simple, but it is the point at which nine tenths of the stews in the world go wrong. The trouble is that few cooks realize how long it takes to brown meat thoroughly."
Read more of that quote here; he's splendidly cranky and directive about stews. In fact, his book, The Supper of the Lamb, is a really great introduction to cooking in general and stews in particular.
So, after the beef is well-browned, the stew needs a long, slow simmer to make the meat tender. Without this, the flavors won't come together and the meat will be browned but still chewy and hard.
So those two things are essential to us: Great browning, even to the point of a little charring here and there, and a long slow simmer or even an overnight rest in the fridge to let the flavors come together. Also, don't forget salt; some stews are definitely in need of salt.
Readers, that's our advice; what other advice would you give Jamie?
Related: Recipe: Classic Beef Stew
(Image: Emma Christensen)