Big chunks of tender beef and fresh root vegetables nestled in a bowl of thick, creamy beef stew warms the body on cold winter days. Getting the right texture isn't always easy, but there are a number of ways to thicken the broth to create a hearty stew worthy of serving company. While the common method of thickening stew involves a rue or slurry made with flour and water, there are other options.
Grains thicken the broth of beef stew while adding fiber and flavor. Try adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pearled barley, bulgar, rice or other whole grain of your choice to your beef stew 30 minutes before serving time. Allow the stew to simmer as the grain cooks. Because the grains absorb water and swell slightly, your broth thickens naturally without the need for flour or other thickeners.
Pasta also thickens the broth while cooking as it adds starch to the broth. Toss in a handful of your favorite pasta about 30 minutes before serving time. As the pasta cooks, it absorbs water and doubles in size, adding flavor and thickening the beef stew. Small pasta, such as alphabets or orzo, delight children, but you can use any pasta you choose. Consider adding a few tortellinis or bow ties to add a whimsical touch to your beef stew.
Try adding leftover mashed potatoes or 1/4 cup of instant mashed potatoes to your beef stew to thicken the broth and add heartiness to the stew. If you don't have them on hand, pop a potato in the microwave to cook it. Remove 1/2 cup of broth from the stew. Mash the potato with a fork or potato masher and add it to the broth. Blend the mixture with a stick blender and add it to your stew.
Pureed veggies add nutrients while thickening your beef stew. Either remove some of the veggies and broth from the soup and blend with a stick blender, or add new pureed veggies to the stew. Consider blending leftover veggies, such as broccoli, green beans or carrots, and adding them to the stew. If you don't have any cooked veggies on hand, open a can of veggies or cook up frozen veggies in the microwave and blend them with a little of the broth. Add the mixture to your stew to thicken the broth.
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