Hot, hearty, comforting and utterly delicious (if I do say so myself). I'm pleased, and relieved, to report that my beef stew was a huge success at the gathering we'd hosted for my husband's immediate family on new years day. Considering he's one of 8 children, it's no small accomplishment to please all of them in one fell swoop. This stew comfortably fed approximately 25 hungry people and won rave reviews from each.
It's important to note that I made this stew one day in advance of the party so all the flavors had a chance to meld and marry and on the day of the party it was easy just to pop it in the oven at a low temperature (325 degrees) to develop the flavors and tenderize the meat.
All that being said, there is one giant pot of beef stew coming up. This is what I used and how I made it:
BEEF STEW FOR A CROWD
As we all know, everything is better with bacon and so there was no question that it would be an excellent addition to this stew. Cut and brown approximately 3/4 lbs. bacon (but don't be afraid to use more if you're so inclined) in a large, heavy duty skillet, over high heat.
Remove the browned bacon to an extra large covered roasting pan, and reserved the bacon drippings in the skillet.
Using roughly 5 lbs. of beef top round, cut it into approximately 1" bite size cubes. Seasoning with salt, black pepper, seasoning salt and garlic powder to taste. Working in batches, brown the beef in the bacon drippings remaining in the skillet and remove the meat with a slotted spoon when browned. If needed, add some extra virgin olive oil to the skillet to brown the additional batches of meat.
As each batch is browned, add them to the covered roaster along with the bacon.
When the beef and bacon are all combined, it's time to start adding all the other stew ingredients. Wash and cut 6-7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes into 1" bite size pieces and add them to the beef/bacon mixture.
Meanwhile, in the same skillet the meat was browned and with medium heat, add 8-10 cups of beef broth, 1 cup of brewed coffee (for an additional depth of flavor) and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, making sure to scrape up all the beef and bacon bits from the bottom of the skillet. Next add three bay leaves, 1-1/2 teaspoons ground thyme and 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary. Note: I didn't plan in advance that I was going to be using these herbs or else I would have had fresh on hand. I urge you to always use fresh when possible, but in a pinch dry works fine.
Bring the liquid mixture to a mild simmer over low heat as you prepare the additional stew ingredients.
Making sure to keep all the ingredients in similar small, bite size pieces, peel and chop 6 parsnips and add them to the meat mixture.
Peel and chop 8-10 medium carrots (I used baby carrots) and chop 1 bag of frozen Italian green beans and add these ingredients into the meat mixture.
Then add 1 bag of frozen peas and add 3 jars of whole onions, along with their liquid.
Stir well to combine all the ingredients and then carefully add the simmered liquid to the roaster. Add enough water (if needed) just to cover.
At this point you can cover and refrigerate your stew overnight (as recommended) or you can cook it straight away. On the day you're ready to serve your stew, remove it from the fridge and allow to warm on the counter for approximately 1/2 hour while preheating your oven to 325 degrees.
Uncover your stew and place on the middle rack of your oven. Cook for 2 hours uncovered, and an additional 2 hours covered. When you're almost ready to serve, mix a slurry of 4-5 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 cups water. Add the cornstarch/water mixture to the stew and bring to a boil on the stove top over medium high heat to thicken the sauce. If desired, add 1/2 bottle of Kitchen Bouquet to deepen the color of the gravy.
I served my stew with prepared bread sticks (to sop up the gravy) and some additional veggies and dip, although you hardly need it as this stew is loaded with the good stuff.
Deep, rich, flavorful and filling. I hope you enjoy this recipe and will make it for your own get together sometime soon. Come to think of it, this would make an excellent Super Bowl party meal. Hmmm, might have to do that myself :) SCORE!!!
Until we eat again,