Back in my personal chef days, I worked for a wonderful family that had a bit of a dinner conundrum. The father longed for his Sicilian American mother’s beef ragu, but his kids wouldn’t touch it because it contained — gasp! — vegetables.
Wanting to find a compromise, I added something to the recipe that few kids can resist: cheesy garlic bread. I made the family recipe as instructed, moving the stew from a deep pot to a sauté pan and reducing the liquid slightly. Then I popped open a can of biscuits, divided them into 16 portions, and wrapped them around little cubes of string cheese. I put these “bombs” on top of the stew, brushed the biscuits with garlic butter, and baked the whole thing in the oven until the biscuits were golden-brown.
The kids were so excited by the gooey cheese-stuffed biscuits that they ate the stew that happened to come with it. (Full disclosure: I got a report that some mushrooms were left on their plates, but they did plow through the rest with delight.) The parents loved that their kids learned to like the family recipe, and the parents welcomed the new addition of biscuits, too. Mission accomplished.
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A few notes
Don’t buy pre-cubed stew meat. It’s convenient, but it’s often a combination of different cuts — including meat from the top and bottom round, which won’t be as tender or juicy as meat from the chuck primal. Buy a piece of chuck roast and cut it up yourself for the best results.
When trimming the roast, cut away all the fat. Lots of extra fat will make the stew greasy.
Brown the meat in batches. Get the oil hot and brown the beef in two to three batches. If you overcrowd the meat in the pan, the heat will dissipate too much and you’ll end up with stewed gray meat instead of flavorful seared meat.
Test for tenderness. It’s best to bite into a chunk of beef to check for doneness, rather than just going by time. Taste a piece of beef and if you’d prefer it more tender, continue to simmer, covered, until the beef is cooked to your liking. It doesn’t hurt to try two pieces, just to make sure.
Finish with fresh herbs. Adding fresh basil right before serving adds a lovely herbal fragrance and flavor and makes this dish taste more vibrant.
One Pot Italian Beef with Garlic-Butter Bread Bombs
1 medium yellow onion
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 large carrots, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, divided
4 cloves garlic
2 1/4 pounds beef chuck roast
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons)
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 4 (1-ounce) sticks string cheese, or 2 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese
1 (16.3-ounce, 8 count) can Pillsbury Grands original Southern Homestyle biscuits
4 to 6 fresh basil sprigs
1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as it is completed. Halve and thinly slice 1 medium yellow onion. Trim and quarter 8 ounces cremini mushrooms. Peel and dice 1 of the large carrots. Add 1 tablespoon of the dried Italian seasoning.
2. Prepare the following, keeping each separate: Peel and slice the remaining 1 large carrot crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Finely chop 4 garlic cloves and place in a small microwave-safe bowl.
3. Cut 2 1/4 pounds of beef chuck roast into 1-inch cubes and trim and discard any large pieces of fat or bits of connective tissue. Season with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and toss to combine.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in an oven-safe 3 to 4-quart high-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the beef and sear until browned all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
5. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and repeat browning the remaining beef. Add 1/2 cup dry red wine to the pan (keep the beef in the pan). Simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Pour out into the bowl with the first batch of beef.
6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the now-empty pan and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion mixture and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté until the vegetables begin to brown (add more oil to the pan if the pan is dry), about 6 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
7. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the sliced carrot, 1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth, 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes and their juices, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, and 1 bay leaf. Return the beef mixture and wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
8. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375 F. Meanwhile, uncover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes to thicken the sauce a bit.
9. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. (The stew can be made up to this point, cooled, and refrigerated covered for up to four days. Reheat over medium-low heat until simmering before proceeding.)
10. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the bowl of garlic. Microwave on High until melted, 30 seconds. (Alternatively, place everything in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat on the stovetop.)
11. Unwrap and cut 2 to 4 string cheese sticks crosswise into 1-inch pieces until you have 16 pieces, or cut 2 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese into 16 (1/2-inch) cubes. Open an 8-count (16.3-ounce) can Pillsbury Southern Style original biscuits and separate them into individual biscuits. Cut each biscuit in half to form 2 semi circles.
12. Place a piece of cheese in the center of each piece of dough. Bring the edges of the dough around the cheese and gently pinch edges together to create a ball. Do not over-handle the dough or the biscuit will not rise as well. Place the “bombs” seam side-down on top of the stew around the edges of the pot. Brush each bomb with a little garlic butter.
13. Bake uncovered for 13 minutes. Rotate the pot and continue baking until the biscuits are golden brown, about 12 minutes more. Meanwhile, pick the leaves from 4 to 6 fresh basil sprigs and coarsely chop (about 2 tablespoons).
14. When the biscuits are ready, brush with the remaining garlic butter and sprinkle with the basil.
- The beef can be cooked up to four days in advance. Cool and refrigerate in an airtight container or covered in the pan it was cooked in. Reheat over medium heat until simmering, top with the biscuit bombs, and proceed with the baking.
- To store leftovers, take the biscuit bombs off the top of the stew and refrigerate both in separate airtight containers. Reheat the stew in an oven-safe baking dish, topped with the biscuits, in a 325 F oven until heated through, about 25 minutes.