beef stew–improved by Julia Child

Last week I made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon out of her cookbook I got for Christmas.  As I was making it and observing the results from using different techniques, I wondered what would happen if I used the same techniques on my favorite beef stew recipe, which I knew could be better.  (I have to admit that I had not been consistent with it, and naturally I was not getting consistent results.)

My favorite beef stew is now outrageously good.  The recipe I modified using her techniques follows.  However, here’s what I’ve learned to date just from making that one recipe:

  • Good cooking takes time.  Stew that cooks for 3 hours tastes much different (better!) than stew that has only cooked for one hour.  Start early enough.  Don’t be impatient.
  • Don’t take shortcuts.   Everything is done when and how it is for a reason.
  • Even though she’s been gone for a few years, Julia Child can STILL help us all cook better.

Beef Stew

adapted from McCall’s Cooking School

8 servings


2 1/2 lb. boneless chuck roast, cut into 1” cubes

1 T. oil

1 T. butter

1 large peeled yellow onion, cut into chunks

1 lb. medium carrots, pared and cut into 1” chunks

1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 1/2 c. celery, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 T. flour

5 c. beef broth

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

2 parsley sprigs

4 whole cloves


            In hot oil and butter in 6-quart Dutch oven, brown beef well on all sides, turning with tongs.  Do not overcrowd or burn.  As beef is browned, remove and set aside.  Continue browning the rest.  It takes 30 minutes to give it rich flavor and brown color.  Remove beef from Dutch oven and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Add vegetables to Dutch oven, toss to coat with drippings, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Remove vegetables and set aside. 

            Return beef to Dutch oven.  Add salt and pepper and mix into beef.  Sprinkle beef with flour and stir to mix well.  Put Dutch oven into the oven and bake for 4 minutes; stir and bake another 4 minutes.  This will put a little crust on the beef cubes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Take Dutch oven out of the oven and put back on the burner.  Over medium heat, add the vegetables and beef broth.  Make a bouquet garni of the bay leaf, thyme, cloves and parsley sprigs (tied up in a cheesecloth bag) and add to the pot.  Bring to a simmer.

Put the stew back into the oven and bake, covered, for 2  1/2 to 3 hours.  Remove the bouquet garni and serve.


Kathy’s notes:  the recipe originally called for new potatoes, but they don’t have enough starch.  Russet potatoes will release starch as they cook and will give a nice thick broth for the stew.


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