A culinary trip back to Spain with Catalan-Style Beef Stew with Mushrooms. Supremely beefy and complexly flavored, Spanish beef stew is a little different than its American counterpart. It starts with a sofrito, a slow-cooked mixture of onions, spices, and herbs that builds a flavor-packed base. But plan on making this impressive dinner when you have at least four hours to spare. (You can prepare several steps a few days ahead of time, see note below.)
To produce a beefier-tasting stew, swap out the normal chuck-eye roast for boneless beef short ribs. When finishing the stew, incorporate a mixture of toasted bread*, toasted almonds, garlic, and parsley. This mixture, called a picada, brightens the stew’s flavor and thickens the broth.
Luckily this is one of those dishes that can continue to cook at a low temp beyond the allotted time. Shortly before our meal would have been ready to serve, we got a phone call from the West Coast, and just as that was ending another call from Michigan, both important and lengthy. After the calls, a neighbor stopped by to discuss their intended kitchen updates and wanted to see what we had already changed—which then turned into a discussion on vacation travels… All the while the tantalizing aromas are wafting through the house…
Finally it was 8:30 and we couldn’t wait any longer. And let me tell you, it certainly was worth the wait! Lots leftover too for another quick weeknight meal. Although we needed to get a few more potatoes to make additional garlicky mashed as a foundation for the stew. We only had one Russett potato for the original meal which didn’t provide for any leftovers.
As far as the plum tomatoes, buying them in the dead of winter on the East Coast—not a good idea. The two we bought, while robust in size, were anemic in color and taste. In hindsight, since the plums get grated, we should just have used crushed canned tomatoes which would have provided a richer color and more depth of flavor.
Instead of buying whole blanched almonds, we had toasted slivered almonds already on hand in the pantry. And the grocery store didn’t stock loose oyster mushrooms so we bought 8 ounces of “specialty blend” which included oysters, and we upped the mushroom ante by including another 6 or so ounces of white button shrooms that we wanted to use up—in our book, extra mushrooms is a good thing!
Slivered almonds are toasted in a carbon steel skillet.
The toasted almonds and garlic are minced in a mini food processor.
*We substituted gluten-free bread crumbs in place of the white sandwich bread to address Russ’s wheat-free diet.
The chopped almonds and garlic are added to the bread crumbs and chopped parsely.
The sofrito mixture before it is added to the cooked onions.
Adding the sofrito mixture to the caramelized onions.
The sofrito before the wine, water, thyme and cinnamon are added.
The cubed short ribs are added to the liquid before going into the oven.
We used more than the 1/2-pound of mushrooms since we had them on hand. Once the stew is cooked, the mushrooms and picada get added.
Remove the woody base of the oyster mushroom stem before cooking. An equal amount of quartered button mushrooms may be substituted for the oyster mushrooms. Or do what we did and use a mixture of oyster, shiitake and portobellos. Serve the stew with boiled or mashed potatoes or rice.
- FOR THE STEW: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat oil in Dutch oven (we used a clay Cazuela) over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add onions, sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until onions are deeply caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, and bay leaf; cook, stirring often, until darkened and thick, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add wine, water, thyme, and cinnamon to pot, scraping up any browned bits. Season beef with 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and add to pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered.
- After 1 hour stir stew to redistribute meat, return to oven, and continue to cook uncovered until meat is tender, 1½ to 2 hours longer.
- FOR THE PICADA: While stew is in oven, heat almonds and 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring often, until almonds are golden brown, 3 to 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer almonds to food processor.
- Return now-empty skillet to medium heat, add bread, and cook, stirring often, until toasted, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to food processor with almonds. Add garlic and process until mixture is finely ground, about 20 seconds, scraping bowl as needed. Transfer mixture to bowl, stir in parsley, and set aside
- Return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside.
- Remove bay leaf. Stir picada, mushrooms, and vinegar into stew. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.