1-3/4 pound boneless beef chuck, trimmed of fat and cut into 1" cubes
Salt and Pepper
5 Tbs. flour
4-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 large leeks (white and light-green parts only), cut in half the long way and thinly sliced OR 3 medium onions
2 medium carrots, cut into 1" pieces
2 medium ribs of celery, chopped
1 c. dry white wine (1 "airline bottle")
6 c. lower salt chicken broth
1/2 c. pearl barley
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage OR 1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg OR 1/2 tsp. dried nutmeg
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 3 cups)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season the beef with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper; toss in large bowl with 2 Tbs. flour
3. Heat 1 Tbs butter and the oil in 5 - 6 Qt Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook half the beef until browned, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer beef to a plate; repeat with remaining beef (you may need a bit more oil).
4. Melt 2 Tbs. butter in the pot and add leeks (onions), carrots and celery. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until evaporated, 7-8 minutes.
6. Stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. flour and cook for 1 minute.
7. Whisk in 5 c. broth. Add barley, sage, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt and the beef along with any accumulated juice. Bring to a boil.
8. Cover the pot tightly with foil and then a secure lid. Place in oven and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour.
9. Stir in the squash and the last cup of broth. Re-cover and return to the oven until beef and squash are very tender, about 30 minutes more.
10. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Good to know
Cooking meat in a tightly-covered pot is a technique called braising; the long cooking time in a moist environment causes the connective tissue in the meat to dissolve and the meat to become extremely tender.
The recipe takes a while to prepare, but can easily be made a day in advance. If you chose, you can make it with a crockpot, but don't skip the browning of the meat and vegetables or deglazing with the wine. Both add layers of flavor to the final product! If you do use a crockpot, don't add the squash more than a couple of hours before the end - you don't want it to overcook.
If you prefer a more traditional stew, you can make this dish with carrots and potatoes; use 5 carrots instead of two; omit the barley and squash and add 1" cubes of potato in step 9.
Leeks have to be cleaned before cooking; they are raised in sandy soil and often have considerable dirt and grit inside. To clean them, slice and then place in bowl of water, swirling them around to remove grit. When the grit is removed, scoop the leeks out of the water to remove. If you strain the water out, the grit will get back into the leeks!
In the photo above, I added some creamy polenta on the side; of course the stew is quite good on it's own as well.