A few years ago when I was in college, I worked at a restaurant called The Cheeseboard, which makes the best soups and my all-time favorite grilled cheese sandwich. When I worked there, we would essentially just make a giant pot of soup with whatever we had laying in the fridge. Some of my favorites included our potato soup which I would top with absurd amounts of cheddar and the tomato soup with I would obviously pair with the grilled cheese. One time, the chef made a stew with beef, wild rice, and all kinds of vegetables, and it was one of the best beef stews I ever done had. It also happened to be one of the days that I didn’t help make the soup, and I had no idea what he did, AND to top it all off, he never used recipes. SO I decided to make my own version, and I wrote a post about it, and it was good, but it wasn’t one of the best stews I ever had. After that, I pretty much just forgot about beef soup until approximately one week ago when I found a package of stew meat in my freezer.
After a few years of learning more about food, and re-reading my original beef + wild rice stew recipe, I realized I had done some cooking techniques that made little sense, and the ingredients were a little off for my tastes (3 years will do that to you I guess?). So I decided to remake the recipe with some different ingredients and some updated techniques, and I have to say, I think this maybe is one of the best beef stews I’ve ever had. Yay!!
For starters, I learned that a good quality stew meat + broth makes a big difference in taste! I used stew meat from Sanford Ranch Beef which my cousins own, but you can use whatever good-quality meat you can find. Also, try to find a nice wild rice mix without any added seasonings or preservatives – those will affect the overall flavor of the soup. For veggies, I use a mire poix with some squash, but next time I may add turnips or leeks! Basically, whatever you have in the fridge. Also, I serve the stew with either a mixed salad or charred broccoli and fresh, crusty whole-wheat bread!
The stew lasts well in the fridge and can even taste better after a few days. The rice usually soaks up some of the broth, so try to have extra on hand for leftovers!!
Beef + Wild Rice + Vegetable Stew
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. beef stew meat, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. red wine
4-6 c. low-sodium beef broth*
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. marjoram or thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. wild rice
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 zucchini, diced
In a large soup pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides for a few minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside. If necessary, add the remaining oil and saute the carrots, celery, and onion cooking until soft. Add garlic, and let it cook until fragrant.
Lower the heat, and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Stir and let it simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the beef broth, bay leaf, marjoram (or thyme), parsley, hot sauce, wild rice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then add the beef back to the pot. Reduce the stew to a simmer, and cover the pot with a lid. Gently simmer for about 45-60 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
When the rice is cooked, add the peas and zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Discard the bay leaf. Season the stew with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with lots of crusty bread!
*I used 4 cups of broth which made a very thick stew. The rice soaked it all up for leftovers, so I had to add more liquid. If you like a brothy stew, add 6 cups!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle & Sebastian