I continue to worry over the question about the best way to brown meat for roasting or stewing. At the beginning or end of cooking? If you’re browning meat for a stew, do you do so in the casserole dish, or in a frying pan? The advantage of the latter process, I have always thought, is that you leave behind in the pan all the burned bits that might taint the flavour. But after I had fried several batches of meat for the stew below, I had a casserole with a various blackened patches on its base, and I could not taste any bitterness in the finished dish.
After sitting in a marinade, the pieces of meat may disgorge liquid that prevent them from browning. On the other hand, the residues from the marinade caramelise quickly.
As I have noted before, the maillard (browning) reactions work with increasing efficiency as one goes through the batches. This is why I browned the pancetta first.
1.2kg beef for stewing, such as chuck
1/3 bottle red wine
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
1 star anise
75g pancetta, cubed
12 shallots, or 16 button onions, peeled
Knob of butter
In a large bowl, stir the meat with the wine, onions, garlic, star anise, cloves, peppercorns, and salt. Cover, and leave overnight in the fridge.
Put a splash of oil in a heavy casserole, and fry the pancetta over a gentle heat, until the cubes have shed their fat and have browned. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, tip the meat and its marinade into a colander over a saucepan or bowl. Separate the meat from the marinade ingredients, which you can throw away.
Pat the meat dry in batches with paper towels, and fry it in the casserole dish – with just as many pieces in each batch to cover the base – over a medium heat. Allow the pieces to brown on one surface (it should take less than a minute) before turning once, and then removing to a large plate before browning the next batch. Add splashes of oil if necessary. You will probably find that areas of your dish blacken.
When the last batch has browned, pour in the reserved marinade, and add the rest of the meat and the pancetta pieces. Stir, and place in a gas mark 2/150C oven for about two and a quarter hours. After half an hour or so, check that the stew is simmering gently, and adjust the heat up or down if appropriate. Stir the stew from time to time.
You may find that you have more liquid than you want. If so, tip the stew into a colander over a saucepan, return the meat to the casserole and put back in the oven, and boil the sauce vigorously to reduce it. Taste the sauce. I found that I needed a little more salt. Pour the sauce back over the stew.
Melt a knob of butter in a heavy saucepan or frying pan over a gentle heat, and brown the shallots or onions. Tip them into the stew 45 minutes before serving.
Here's a beef and wine stew I made in a different way