Almost by definition, beef stew isn't a weeknight-friendly dish.
That's mostly a matter of the meat. Stew meat generally is tough and requires a long simmer to become tender. But who has time for a long simmer at the end of a long day at work?
But stews are so right for the season, it seems a shame to give them up. Sure, you could plan ahead and make them on the weekend. But for many people, weekends rarely are relaxed enough to spend much time contemplating dinners for the rest of the week.
A beef stew that could be tossed together on a weeknight may be easier than you expected.
The first step is to replace the meat. Tender sirloin tips worked perfectly, if you adapt the cooking technique to this cut of meat. Cooked with the rest of the ingredients, the tips end up tough from overcooking. But added only at the end, the meat won't brown.
Brown the meat first, then set it aside while the other ingredients cook. Return it to pot toward the end of cooking for perfect taste and texture.
Speedy Beef and Butternut Stew
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•1 1/2 pounds sirloin beef tips, cut into chunks
•3 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch cubes)
•1 cup baby carrots, halved
•1 large yellow onion, diced
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
•2 cups beef broth
•1 teaspoon smoked paprika
•1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
•1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
•Salt and ground black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the beef, in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides but still rare at the center, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a plate.
Return the saucepan to the heat and add the squash and carrots. If the pan is too dry to easily saute the vegetables, add a splash of olive oil. Saute until the squash begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, then continue to cook until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, broth, paprika, thyme and mustard powder. Bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots and squash are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Return the beef to the pot, as well as any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Simmer for 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.