This ain't no set-it-and-forget-it I-found-it-on-Pinterest recipe. It's the real deal. A delicious, go-to standard. There are many steps, all worthwhile. Don't let your meat fall apart into sad, dry shreds. Leave it in tender chunks that, because you didn't cook the bejeezum out of it, should melt with each bite. Like Twizzlers, it makes mouths happy, but with nutritional value and low risk of tooth decay.

OH! Our beautiful photos this month were all shot by the talented Sarah Derer! So you can blame her when you can't stop thinking about beef stew all afternoon.

Mushroom Barley Beef Stew

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 pounds beef chuck roast
4 carrots, divided
2 stalks celery
2 onions
1 head garlic
1 12-ounce bottle of brown ale
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup water
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
8 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 parsnips
3 largish red potatoes, cut into 1/2” chunks
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Trim your chuck roast and cut it into large 1 1/2-inch cubes.  Peel two of the carrots and cut them in half. Peel and quarter the onions. Wash the celery stalks and cut into 4” lengths.  Slice the whole head of garlic in half, leaving the skin on.  

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot. When the oil is shimmering hot, season the beef and brown it deeply on at least 2 sides. Set the browned beef aside. Dump the prepared carrots, onions, celery, and garlic into the pot and stir a few times.  Quickly add the beer and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom. Add the quart of chicken stock and the water. Return the beef to the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and barely simmer, covered, until the beef is fork tender.  This should take about an hour and a half. You want the beef to be at a stage where it can be easily pulled apart, but is not falling apart on its own.  

When the beef is tender, turn off the heat. Scoop most of the beef out of the liquid, then strain the remaining liquid, reunite the remaining beef with its friends, and discard the mushy vegetables who have given their flavors to the cause. Save the liquid and the beef only.  

In the same pot you braised the beef in, heat the remaining vegetable oil. When the oil is nearly smoking, add the mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Let the mushrooms cook until they are softened and beginning to brown. Add the parsnips and red potatoes, then pour back in the braising liquid. Bring the pot to a simmer, then add the barley. Let the stew cook for about 20 minutes, then return the beef to the pot. Continue to cook until the barley is just tender (it will continue to absorb liquid as it sits in the stew, so don’t worry all that much about undercooking.) Stir in the frozen peas and the red wine vinegar. Taste, adjust salt if necessary, and serve hot with some good bread. And a good, hearty stout. OBVIOUSLY.

Sarah Derer

Sarah Derer