Sunday Dinner Series: beef stew with prunes
We love the texture of the prunes in here and prefer a mix of whole ones and some that are chopped. They add a subtle sweetness to the finished stew, while the orange is the surprising undertone of flavor here. Both the Worcestershire sauce and the balsamic vinegar help to round out the overall flavor. The finished stew should be nice and thick from tossing the meat with the flour before browning, and with the addition of potatoes, makes a really delicious meal.
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Flour, for dredging
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups homemade (or low-sodium) beef stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 3-inch piece orange zest
1 15-ounce can tomato purée
1 cup pitted prunes (about 1/2 roughly chopped)
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 pounds baby Yukon potatoes (see cook’s note)
Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Pat beef completely dry. Place beef in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, and toss beef with flour until it’s all coated, adding more flour as you need to lightly coat each piece completely.
In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add beef to pot, shaking off excess flour (do this in 2 batches as to not overcrowd pot) and cook until beef is browned on all sides. Transfer beef to a plate and repeat again with another 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter and remaining beef. Reduce heat to low as second batch cooks so bottom of pot doesn’t burn. Transfer remaining beef to plate.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Deglaze pan with 1 cup stock, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add remaining stock along with Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, orange zest, and tomato purée. Season with salt and pepper.
Return beef to pot along with any pan juices and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and transfer pot to oven. Cook for 2 hours. Remove from oven; stir in prunes and potatoes (see cook’s note) and continue to cook for another 1/2-1 hour, until meat is tender.
Remove stew from oven and discard cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and orange zest (if it hasn’t dissolved). Stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Taste for flavor and adjust as desired. Ladle stew into serving bowls and top each some parsley and serve.
cook’s note: We prefer to make the potatoes on the stove while the stew cooks and then add them in towards the end of the cooking time so that they retain more of their texture in the finished stew. To cook, place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiled, reduce heat to low and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and set aside. When you add the prunes to the stew, add in the potatoes, cutting any larger ones into smaller pieces before adding to the stew.