Saturday was our up-in-the-air day as far as dinner was concerned. We had activities that made actually preparing dinner difficult, but we had the time to eat it. We really didn’t want to go out for dinner, with Andy working out of town yet, he eats out four nights a week as it is, plus lunch and breakfast, so he really looks forward to home cooking. I did have a bit of time earlier in the day to put together dinner, so I decided to look for something that could be held in the crock-pot for awhile while we did our running around. I just wasn’t finding anything that sounded good to me though. This weekend we had unusually summery weather, so something hearty like a soup or stew wasn’t sounding good. My savior came in the form of a weekly e-mail from Taste of Home magazine. They were featuring a Vegetable Beef Stew that had squash and corn in it, as well as some dried fruit for sweetness. I was intrigued, I’m not normally a fruit-with-meat sort of girl, but the idea of a sort of sweet-and-sour appealed to me greatly.
Upon printing it out though, there were a lot of ingredients called for that I simply didn’t have. But since the idea had already been rolling around in my head, I decided to use what I did have on hand and create my own Autumn Harvest Beef Stew. I made a trip to the garden for some thyme, rosemary, celery and carrots, and then I was set to begin assembly.
I started with a pound of beef cubes, seasoned, floured, and browned in my soup pot. After the beef was browned, I removed it and added the aromatics. In this case, it was onion, celery and bell pepper, with plenty of celery leaves. I cooked this until soft, but not yet browning, and then I added some cubed squash, sweet potato, and carrots, along with the unusual ingredient of one cup of diced peach slices. I also chopped up some tomatoes and added those with the rosemary, thyme and some beef broth. I slid the beef back in and then simmered the whole concoction for about one hour, or until the beef was tender, the vegetables soft, and I had a nice luscious gravy. After tasting for seasoning, I added more salt and pepper, as well as a few dashes of Worcestershire to deepen the sauce a bit. I poured it all into a crock-pot and turned it onto warm while we were busy for a few hours.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure about this stew. As mentioned, I’m not a big fruit-with-meat fan, and I also prefer my squash by itself, but this stew was a rather remarkable achievement. The beef was perfectly tender and the interesting combination of vegetables melded together perfectly to create a stew that was the perfect solution to an Indian Summer day. It was loaded with the flavors of fall, yet lighter than a traditional hearty beef stew. The peaches all but disappeared into the stew, but contributed a sweetness that really enhanced the stew as a whole. The kids enjoyed it okay, they weren’t crazy about the squash, but they didn’t turn their noses up at it either. Andy and I both enjoyed it immensely, and thought it the perfect autumnal stew.
Autumn Harvest Beef Stew
In a small bowl, sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper and then toss with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat a dutch oven or a pot with a lid over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the floured beef cubes and cook for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion, celery and bell pepper to the pot. Cook until softened and translucent, but not yet browning, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and rosemary, squash, carrots,peaches, sweet potato, tomatoes, and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add the beef back into the pot, along with any accumulated juices, and cover the pot. Cook over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Taste to check for seasoning, adding a few dashes of Worchestershire if desired, as well as additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve with fresh crusty bread for mopping up juices.