Have I told you guys that I took an entire class on meat in college?
Now before you think that I’m weird and maybe a little podunk, let’s remember this: my degree is in Restaurant and Hotel Management. I also took an entire class on germs and food-born illness (along with an entire semester of dry cracked hands from washing them every 90 seconds).
Oh, and the alcohol class. I’m sad to report there were no samples in that one.
And the 3-semester course with a lab that was like being in culinary school? Luckily there were samples in that one…turns out I can make a mean hollandaise sauce and tortilla chips you might just sell your left arm for.
Not together of course. But good nonetheless.
But the meat class was a surprise winner in my book. The professor was one of the smartest and most country-fied men I’ve ever met in my life and would trash-talk the kids who showed up late and didn’t pay attention. I kind of have to respect when people get called out for being bad students, but that’s another story. The most important part of the class though? I went in a meat-hater and came out a meat-lover to the max. Pre-meat-class I would have sworn an oath on the Bible saying that I hated the flavor of beef.
But y’all this professor challenged that – he was one of the first people to ever teach me to sit and savor the flavors (multiple flavors) that come from eating food. He used words like “earthy” and “caramelized” and “succulent” and I ran out the next day to buy a steak and try it again. And even though we had to watch a pig go from alive to sausages and porkchops and everything in between for our lab (which was actually fascinating), I would say that meat class was one of my favorite classes in all of college.
So what does this have to do with today? Oh, simple really – I made this beef stew with loads of barley and vegetables and flavor like you wouldn’t believe. I also had another epiphany while making it: when done right, stew meat is pretty stinking fantastic. Consider this your meat class – embrace the beef and go make this tonight!
- 1 lb stew meat (you can also use a chuck roast, cubed into 1-inch pieces)
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
- 3-4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, wiped with a damp towel and cut in half
- 1 cup green beans, cut in half (so they’re all about 2 inches long)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 32 oz beef stock
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2/3 cup medium pearled barley***
- salt and pepper to taste
First things first: I want you to fry up the bacon over medium-low heat until it’s crisp, then remove it from the pan. You can either snack on it while you make the rest of the stew or toss it into the finished product – promise I won’t judge. While that’s cooking away, toss the flour, salt and pepper together and then toss the stew meat together with that. When the bacon is done add the meat to the pan and let it brown up on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and green beans. Pour in the Worchestershire sauce, broth, water and rosemary. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, add the barley, stir, and then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 45-60 minutes until the barley is tender but still chewy. Salt and pepper to taste, and then serve hot!
***If you don’t have access to barley (or just prefer other grains) brown rice or quinoa would still be delicious with this. I would recommend making the other grain on the side and then mixing it into the hot stew so as to keep it from getting mushy since barley is actually a really hearty grain.