My gluten free beef stew pairs the rustic elegance of red wine with the velvety decadence of dark chocolate. It’s made in the traditional French bourguignon or burgundy style which simply means cooked in a red wine sauce.
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A stew is a braise, which means it uses both dry heat and moist heat cooking methods. Browning the meat first is the dry heat part. This caramelizes the outside of the meat adding flavor to the stew. Then liquid is added, in this case red wine and beef broth, to simmer and tenderize the meat.
All whole fresh cuts of meat are gluten free. For this stew, use a lean stewing beef. Stewing beef is a tougher cut of meat that comes from the muscular parts of the cow. You can cut up chuck or round steak to make stew. These cuts have lots of collagen and lots of connective tissue. This is what make them tougher, but it’s also what gives them amazing flavor and mouth feel when simmered for a good long time in liquid. Don’t use your expensive sirloin grilling steak here. It’s a waste of money and won’t give you the best result.
Meat must be dry to brown. If your meat is wet, steam will form creating a barrier between the meat and the pot, so your meat doesn’t touch the hot surface and will end up more grey than brown. If you put too much in the pan at once, then moisture will be drawn out of the meat and it will boil instead of browning. Dry your stewing beef off with paper towels and brown it in small batches.
What’s the Best Fat for Browning Stewing Beef?
I like to use bacon fat. It adds an amazing umami flavor to your stew that will compliment the wine and chocolate beautifully. A lot of people are concerned about cooking with bacon fat. The way I look at it, my grandmother did it for decades and both my grandparents lived into their nineties. If you still don’t like the idea of using bacon fat, then any cooking oil will be fine.
Any reasonably good tasting, full bodied inexpensive young red wine is perfect.
You don’t need an expensive wine because you won’t get all the flavor nuance that makes a great wine when you cook it. Still, pick something that you would actually drink. A bad tasting wine can’t make a good tasting sauce. I often use bits of open bottles that are left over from company.
The idea of chocolate in stew might seem a bit weird, but if you suspend your skepticism and give it a try, I know you'll love it.
I'm not the first person to do this. Molly Stevens has a Chocolate Chili recipe in her All About Dinner cookbook, and I use it in my Gluten Free Beef Hotpot which is my version of a Jamie Oliver classic.
Use dark chocolate, at least 70%. Make sure your chocolate is gluten free. You can leave out the chocolate if you like but I recommend adding it. Your stew won’t taste chocolaty, but the flavor and texture will be enhanced. Your stew will be darker and richer than without the chocolate.
The best way to thicken gluten free beef stew is with gluten free flour. You can use your favorite all purpose flour blend, the brand doesn’t matter. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and onions after browning and continue to cook for a bit. Then slowly add the liquid while stirring.
If, once your stew is finished cooking, the broth seems a little thin, there are a couple of things you can do. First, if there is lots of broth, let it simmer for a bit on the stove top. This will reduce the amount of broth and thicken it up.
If there is not enough broth to reduce, or if you try reducing and you still don’t think your sauce is thick enough, then make a beurre manié. Mix a teaspoon of gluten free flour with a teaspoon of butter. It should be about the consistency of toothpaste. Add a pea sized piece to your stew. Stir and let it cook for a minute. Continue with pea sized pieces until your gluten free beef stew is the right thickness.
Some recipes will tell you to make a slurry out of corn starch or some other starch and water. This will work but it’s not the best way to thicken a gluten free beef stew. The slurry needs to be added at the end, as it won’t hold its thickness for the long cooking time. Also, stew thickened with cornstarch won’t keep as well in the fridge. It will often “break” and become watery.
You can if you like. I sometimes add a good-sized diced potato to my gluten free beef stew if I want to stretch it a bit. If you leave the potato out of the stew, you can serve it over mashed potatoes or gluten free noodles.
My favorite way to season a stew is with salt and pepper. The bay leaf, garlic and thyme give you that classic French bourguignon flavor. You can also use a packaged beef stew seasoning, just make sure it’s gluten free. McCormick’s has one that is popular though I’ve not tried it myself.
This stew is so delicious, you can just ladle it into a bowl and devour it as is. You may like to add a gluten free bun, some toast or a biscuit to the side. Other options are to ladle your stew over mashed potatoes or cooked noodles. I sometimes make a baked potato in the microwave, break it open then spoon my delicious gluten free beef stew over top.