I didn't believe it was possible to make a flavorful beef stew without beef stock, but this recipe proved me wrong. An unassuming combination of cheap stew meat, green beans, tomatoes, and spices come together on the stove and cook low and slow, turning into something distinctly more than the sum of its parts. The green beans melt into lusciousness while, miraculously, maintaining their texture through hours of cooking. And the tomatoes become a complex, silky sauce that coats the beef and does wonders for a bowl of hot rice.
I adapted this stew from a Food52 recipe that, quite frankly, needed no adapting. It calls for coriander and cumin, which I used in moderation, and which are quite lovely. However, I also added plenty of vadouvan, an intriguing blend combining many of the spices in curry - cumin, tumeric, mustard seeds - with more French spices like shallots and nutmeg. It's positively seductive, and it works magic on this stew.
Susan on Food52 uses an interesting method for cooking this stew, skipping the browning process and instead simply covering the beef with water and cooking it just so. I'm not so bold; I insisted on browning the beef in just a tablespoon of olive oil, and I was happy to have browned the beef before making the stew. That said, I can't think of a time when Amanda and Merrill have steered me wrong, so should you want to skip the browning, I have every faith you'd make something delicious. Go forth, friends. It's beef stew season.
Beef Stew with Vadouvanadapted from Food52 Serves 6-8
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 lb. stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks salt and pepper 16 oz. crushed tomatoes 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed, halved 2 cloves of garlic 1 teaspoon coriander 1 teaspoon cumin 1 tablespoon vadouvan (if not using, increase coriander and cumin to 2 teaspoons each)
Drizzle the olive oil into a heavy bottomed dutch oven or covered pot and place over medium heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper on all sides, and add beef to the pot in a single layer. Sear, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides.
Add water to cover beef, the green beans, and the crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves, and spices. Stir to combine, cover the pot, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, until beef is very tender and green beans are soft but still intact. Check on stew periodically, stirring and adding more water if necessary. By the time the beef is thoroughly cooked, the liquid will have reduced considerably, so you'll probably have to add water at least once while the stew cooks.
Serve hot over rice, with plenty of sauce ladled overtop.