24 October 2013

Think Outside The Griddle: Beef Maple Stew with Gnocchi and Fresh Tarragon

beef stew maple syrup
A week ago, I received an email from a representative of Pure Canadian Maple Syrup telling me about their ongoing Think Outside the Griddle contest, featuring, you guessed it, maple syrup! The prizes are nice, but I was intrigued by the rules - our recipe can only be prepared in one cooking vessel, and, I was told, we could not use additional prep bowls other than a cutting board. Right from the beginning, I knew this would be a challenge, and I began brainstorming recipe after recipe.

beef stew cubes maple syrup
I hadn't initially planned on creating a stew recipe. The recipe I did attempt on the first go didn't quite turn out the way I envisioned, ending up as a stew. I served it up and wrote it off as a failure, until Alex said that he really liked the flavors. He's right, it was good. At that point, I decided to rework the recipe I had roughly written down to create a better stew, and that is the recipe you will find at the end of this post.

beef cubes maple syrup
beef cubes maple syrup
Since the instructions stated that we could only use one cooking vessel and no prep bowls, the directions for my stew will be a little rough compared to others. For example, when browning meat it's best not to crowd it, but I had no choice in this case. Honestly, it came out tasting like a dish I am proud to blog about, so it's not all that bad. The vegetables might not saute as they would normally, but thanks to the long cooking time the flavors all have a chance to meld together.

Despite not being able to work the ingredients traditionally, I didn't let all the techniques go by the wayside. To begin, the beef cubes need to be pat dry to remove excess moisture, which will really help create a better sear. After the first batch browns, push it aside and sear the rest.

As an aside, you can also buy a two-pound boneless bottom chuck roast and cube it yourself.

vegetables for beef stew maple syrup
The vegetables are added in stages, starting with the onions, red bell pepper, and julienned carrots (you can buy carrots already sliced into matchsticks at the store, I think). After that cooks for two minutes, I added tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes, and minced garlic, letting that cook for another two minutes. The tomato paste helps thicken the sauce and also adds a dimension of flavor.

Worcestershire sauce maple syrup
The real star of the stew, though, is the maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce. The maple syrup adds a sweet essence to the stew that combines with the savoriness of the ingredients to create a pretty awesome gravy. Don't be afraid of it, either, because it's not overpowering. It's just great. I found that the Worcestershire sauce compliments the maple syrup by adding a complex savoriness.

The two are combined and added to the beef, which will bubble up rapidly and release an appetizing aroma into the kitchen. Be prepared, maybe have a snack on hand. Finally, beef broth is poured on top. From this point forward, you don't need to do much for 2 1/2 hours other than give it an occasional stir.

beef stew maple syrup
Thirty minutes before prior to the finish, I added the green beans. I didn't add them at the beginning since green beans don't take very long to cook.

gnocchi maple syrup stew
gnocchi beef stew maple syrup
The final addition is a package of gnocchi. Gnocchi is an Italian potato pasta, sort of a dumpling, and adds a wonderful chewy bite to the stew. Most stews contain actual potatoes, but I thought gnocchi was a nice twist and I knew I wanted to incorporate it in some way since it doesn't take long to cook.

beef maple stew
Finally, the stew is finished. The gravy should be rich and complex, with just a touch of sweetness from the maple syrup followed by a note of heat from the crushed red pepper, and the beef very tender. For the final touch, sprinkle chopped fresh tarragon on top. I love the taste of fresh tarragon and use it to flavor chicken all the time, and it goes just as well with beef. If you don't like it, substitute your favorite fresh herb, or parsley.

And there you have it! This is my entry to the Think Outside the Griddle contest. Entrants are also required to post about a way to repurpose the leftovers (if you have any), and I would say to keep it simple by making a nice side salad. Additionally, you could shred the remaining beef cubes to stretch out the meat and top it over additional cooked gnoochi to create more of a gravy sauce. However you choose to eat the leftovers, I assure you it will be delicious!

[Side note: Please vote for my chocolate chip cookie recipe in the Fonseca Bin 27 Cookie Rumble contest. Here is a link to my entry - if the link doesn't work, look for "Running Foodie's Chocolate Chip Cookies". Thank you for your support!]

beef stew maple syrup

Print this recipe

Beef Maple Stew with Gnocchi and Fresh Tarragon
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients -

2 pounds cubed boneless chuck beef
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups julienned carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
8 cups unsalted beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 pound green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
1 16 ounce package of gnocchi
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh tarragon, chopped

Directions -
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add beef cubes in an even layer, patting dry with a paper towel before placing carefully in pot. Sprinkle layer with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper. Sear cubes for 3 minutes, flip over and cook with an additional 3 minutes. Move beef to side of pot and continue cooking remaining beef cubes in the same manner.
  2. After all the beef has seared, add carrots, bell pepper, and onions to pot, stirring to combine. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in minced garlic, tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup, stirring to combine. Mixture will bubble rapidly. Add beef broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, or to maintain a rapid simmer. Cover pot, leaving lid ajar, and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover pot and continue cooking for 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Add prepared green beans; cook for 25 minutes. Stir in gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes. By this point, the broth should have reduced to a thick gravy. Check for seasonings, adding additional salt if necessary and fresh ground pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle stew into bowls and sprinkle with fresh tarragon.


  1. sounds delicious! maple syrup is so good to use in savory dishes.

  2. Yummm. This looks and sounds great! I love the idea of using gnocchi.

    I voted for your cookies! I tried a week ago but it didn't work for me. Anyway, good luck!

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