Cran-Beefy Stew

by Sarah on March 11, 2011 · 8 comments

Remember oh, say, almost a month ago (yes, again, I’m a little behind on the blogging…), I told y’all I had won a $250 stipend from Foodbuzz‘s Tastemaker Program and the Texas Beef Council to use lean cuts of beef in four delicious, Smart Kitchen-ized* recipes?
*I’m not sure what that means either…but I like it.

Right. So, I’ve made ’em all.
I just kind of forgot to tell you about ’em.


After I used all of the creative beef juices I had in my brain to make the chile relleno/cheesesteak hybrid affectionately dubbed “The Chile of Brotherly Love,” I wasn’t sure what else to do. I felt like I would be a bit remiss not to make some form of beef stew, as it is one of those things I remember emerging from a slow-cooker during my childhood, that, like strawberry rhubarb pie, I only recall eating once, and yet savoring nostalgically forever.

I knew, however, I couldn’t make a plain Jane beef stew. Red wine? Carrots? Potatoes? Delicious, sure. But bor-ing, y’all. [OK, if not boring, at least so….expected.] And then I found a can of cranberry sauce on sale for 50 cents. And I thought….what if, instead of red wine, I put cranberry sauce into the stew?

[Please note this is Oregon Trail Cranberry Sauce. Was Oregon Trail not the best computer game ever? It was always so tragic when someone died and you had enough time to give them a 5 second funeral before moving on. I always wondered, though, “How did they have enough time to find and carve a grave stone?”]

And just like that, Cranberry Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes & Kale was born!*

*OK, actually, Cranberry Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes & Spinach was born, but then kale was on sale…and as we all know by now from Modern Family, kale is the new spinach. [And I do think it’s better in soups and stews than spinach…]See, there was a random chili recipe from Better Homes & Gardens I’d found a couple of years age listing dried cranberries of all things as a key ingredient, that I had proceeded to fixate on and ruminate over for those same couple of years…so I’d had this idea of using cranberries in a non-Thanksgiving-dinner application for awhile…and well, now was the time.

And a beautiful time it turned out to be.

By combining the sweet-tart cranberry sauce [which melts right on into the broth, leaving punches of the whole berries behind for a fun surprise ;)]…. ….with the savory succulence of the beef and the slightly salty (reduced sodium) beef broth, chewy potatoes, slurp-able greens, and a hearty helping of balsamic vinegar, which, as you hopefully known, develops this delicious molasses-like flavor when allowed to cook for awhile……well, it’s just really hard to explain how good (and easy to make!) it really is. So you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Where do you begin? With the sweet potatoes of course. [All the best recipes have ’em in them.*]
*That’s not true. Not all of the best recipes. Just a lot of them.
Peel and dice two medium-sized sweet taters (about 3-4 cups), as well as a a medium-to-large onion (about 2 cups).
You’ll want 3/4 lb. of super lean stew meat.
Which you should go ahead and brown up in the bottom of a non-stick pan with a little hot olive oil.
Make sure the pan is non-stick and HOT when you put the meat on…
…then you’ll get the little meaty bits on the bottom that give so much flavor when you de-glaze later.
Remove your meat from the pan, and plop on a paper towel (or four) to get rid of any excess oil or greasy messiness.
Back over on the stove, that hot pan will be begging for the diced onion to come meld it’s flavor with that of the beef bits left behind.
Go ahead and throw on 3-4 cloves worth of minced garlic. (I used pre-minced from a jar. Don’t hate on shortcuts.)
Once the onion has softened a little bit, throw in your taters.
Stir ’em all together.
Then add a whole heck of a lot of dried thyme. This is probably at least a tablespoon.
Let that cook a little bit (3 minutes or so) and then pour in 4 cups of beef broth and 2 cups of water. One you pour it in the pot, make sure you push your wooden spoon down on the bottom so you can get up all the lil’ bits o’ beef. [This is the de-glazing.]
This is also when you add your reserved beef chunks, 1 can of whole-berry cranberry sauce, and about 3-4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

While that is coming up to a boil (boil, toil, and trouble), wash and dice a bunch of kale.
[I mean a “bunch” like you buy in the store. Not like a “bunch” as in an arbitrary amount. Although it is an arbitrary amount, as I never measured how much I actually used…]
Once your delicious brew has had a chance to simmer for as long as it takes to have chewable sweet potatoes….
…throw in the kale!
Stir well to allow the kale to wilt and cook down a bit.
Now, it’s pretty much going to be impossible to resist from this moment on…
…but if you can hold out for a little bit longer, I found that the beef broth-and-berry infused kale was the best part of the whole stew…so try to let it have a chance to soak up all the goodness. [Even if that means its not as gloriously green when you eat it.]

I’m really sad now, because I just finished all of this the other night, and now I wish I had more. I know it sounds weird, but it really is incredible.Cranberry Beef Stew
with Sweet Potatoes & Kale

3/4 lb. super lean beef stew meat, cubed
1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch (or so) chunks
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried thyme
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 cups water
3-4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 bunch kale, chopped
s + p (to taste)

1. In a very hot, non-stick pot, brown the beef in a bit of olive oil. Remove beef from pan, and set aside on a stack of paper towels.
2. Saute the onion and garlic in the same pot, adding extra olive oil if necessary.
3. Once the onion has softened, add the sweet potatoes and thyme. Stir well and cook for about 3 minutes.
4. Pour in beef broth and water. Stir in reserved beef, cranberry sauce, and balsamic vinegar.
5. Bring stew up to a boil and simmer until sweet potatoes are ‘chewable.’
6. Stir in kale and cook until wilted.
7. Eat immediately, or allow to simmer for a little longer so the flavor can really infuse the kale.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean March 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

love all the veggies in this!!! and yes, all the best recipes do have sweet potatoes!


atastelife March 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

Sweet potatoes = love.
And this is so clever. Too bad I keep more red wine on hand than cranberries. 😉


Mary March 11, 2011 at 10:06 am

What a delicious stew. You can add me to the list of sweet potato lovers. I am relatively new to your blog and don't often comment. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy the food and recipes you feature here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary


Allison @ Running With Mascara March 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

That stew looks delicious, and I'm a vegetarian! I bet I could tweak it and come up with a lovely veggie version!


tehstotehara March 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm

As soon as I can cook with meat again I am making some form of this! Sounds delicious!!!!! Cranberry in place of red wine, genius!


Maria @ Oh Healthy Day March 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I've never thought of adding kale to my beef stew – it might be the only way I'd like it. This meal just oozes coziness.


Unknown January 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Yea, so glad I found this recipe! I had pretty much everything in my kitchen. Just to switch things up, I added two fancy bartlett pears, a shallot since I had less than half of an onion left, and I used grapeseed oil instead of olive oil. I'll let you know how it turns out. It smells wonderful!


Unknown January 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

So the addition of pears + 4Tbsp of balsamic + 1/2cup of sugar to cook down the raw cranberries = a tad too sweet for my pallet. I think if I used 1/4 or no sugar to cook down the cranberries and only 3Tbsp of balsamic it would have been just right. I'll try it again next time I'm in the mood for stew.


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