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Beef Stew Provençal

Here in Austin, the weather is not very holiday-ish. It’s cold and raining and so gray as to be what I like to call gloomyGus. (That’s how I see it in my head. One word; intercap.)

The bone-chilling damp makes me wish that I would walk in the house and find a warm fire with a bowl of steaming stew on a small table next to a squishy chair… like when poor Jane Eyre finally arrives at Thornfield Hall, and Mrs. Fairfax is kind to her after her long journey.

Give the unlikelihood of that scenario, I’ve been taking matters into my own hands and making dino-chow comfort food. And now I’m going to share with you.

Aren’t you lucky?!

So… forget what you think know about beef stew… the waterlogged carrots and potatoes, the mushy peas, the thick brown gravy.

Now… imagine thyme-scented meat, tender zucchini, and briny black olives in a savory, herb-infused broth. Sounds pretty great, right? It’s both comforting on a cold evening and good enough to serve to  company.

When I was in college, I subscribed to one of those housewife-y, mail-order cooking school things. Every month, McCall’s Cooking School would send me recipe pages I could buy for, like, $9.95 to put into the big-ass binder they gave me for free.

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The binder is long gone, but I kept one recipe when I moved out of my college apartment: Beef Stew Provençal. The page has been photocopied several times, and it’s stained with drops of red wine from previous batches of stew. I found the wrinkled page again last weekend when I sorted through my cookbook shelf, and I realized that with a little love, Beef Stew Provençal would make an excellent dino-chow recipe. It also freezes well, so make a double batch and sock it away for the next rainy day.

My version of Beef Stew Provençal appears in Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat — and also below, because I like you.

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Beef Stew Provençal

Serves 4-6 | Marinate 2-3 hours | Cook 3 hours

Ingredients:
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
2 medium oranges
2 pounds boneless beef chuck
2 teaspoons ghee
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 bay leaves
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds 1 (6 ounce) can large black pitted olives

garnish:
minced fresh parsley leaves, extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Use your fingers to crush the dried thyme into the bowl. With a peeler or sharp knife, carefully cut the peel from an orange to make two strips that are 1 inch wide by 3 inches long. Add the peel to the bowl, then squeeze the juice from the oranges to make about 1/3 cup; add to the bowl. Stir with a fork to combine.

2. Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes. Add the beef to the marinade and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or up to overnight. Remove the meat from the marinade and keep the marinade; you’ll add it to the stew later. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with plenty of salt and ground black pepper.

3. Heat a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, then add the ghee. When the ghee is melted, add the beef cubes to the pan in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan. (Everyone appreciates a little wiggle room when the heat is on.) Brown the beef on all sides in batches; remove the beef to a bowl as it browns.

4. When the meat is browned, add the onions and garlic to the drippings (add a little more ghee, if necessary) and cook until soft and golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the bay leaves, tomatoes, broth, and reserved marinade. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.

5. Place the zucchini, carrots, and olives on top of the meat in the pot, then cook an additional 20 minutes, covered, until the beef and vegetables are tender. Serve topped with minced parsley and a gentle drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

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10 Responses to “Beef Stew Provençal”

  1. Dave says:

    Is there an error in these recipes regarding quantity of onions? For me, a small onion is about the size of a tennis ball. 10 of these with only 3 lb of meat? I like onions as much of the next man, but I would hate to ruin a recipe with this much of one ingredient, plus the picture looks more like 1 onion to me.

  2. Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan says:

    The onions referenced are the itty-bitty pearl onions, not standard onions. If you use a regular oniOn, use one medium to large.

  3. Laura says:

    Hi, is the red wine used in the marinade still okay for Paleo?? I’ve just started (trying to eat/be more healthy as I had half my thyroid removed due to possible cancer). Luckily, it wasn’t cancer, but I still don’t have half a thyroid!

    So is wine okay for paleo eaters??

    • Mel says:

      I’m in the same thyroid situation! YAY, half-thyroiders!

      Re: the wine… if you’re being SUPER strict, omit the wine and replace it with 1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup water, and the juice of the orange you use for the orange peel.

      If you’re not in a super strict period, red wine is “primal” — and the alcohol burns off during cooking so you don’t get much of the sugars in the final stew.

  4. Natalia says:

    Hi Mel,
    I was wondering in the instructions that you listed above for omitting the red wine where you say to use 1/3 cup red wine vinegar + 1/3 cup water + juice of the orange, if I should also be adding the piece of orange peel to this or if the juice of the orange takes the places of that? How does the flavor of this compare to using the actual red wine? Might the flavor be not as good? I always wondered why the Paleo diet frowned upon using alcohol in cooking…any sugars left after cooking would be the same as the sugars that we consume in fruits, right?

    • Mel says:

      Yes, throw in the orange peel.

      As for wine… I try to make all my recipes compliant with the Whole30, which means no alcohol, for a variety of reasons. Read their information for all the gory details. If you are just trying to eat paleo in a looser framework, go ahead and use the wine — you’re right about the alchohol cooking off.

      • Natalia says:

        Thanks for the information:) I would really love to make some of your recipes that call for wine but say that beef broth is a secondary substitute. But I haven’t been able to find a beef broth/stock that is Whole30 compliant. I’m looking for one w/o all the artificial stuff, grains, sugars, etc. (preferrably organic). Do you have any recommendations? Really appreciate your help & am excited to receive your cookbook soon:)

        • Mel says:

          I use Central Market brand, which is our local store brand… if you can’t find a clean brand in your local store, you might have to make your own during your Whole30.

  5. louise hane says:

    I made this today and it was fabulous!! I did manipulate the directions a little and threw everything in the crock pot after marinating the meat in the fridge for several hrs. It was yummy enough that my five year old had two bowls full!!

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