One dinner that our mother absolutely excelled at was beef stew. I could not eat anyone else’s due to the fact that I held mami’s in such high regard, none could come close, not even at the restaurants. As my brother and I got older and she worked longer hours, dinners together became less frequent. I recall the exact day I asked her to make beef stew just one more time. She agreed to make it the next day, on the condition that I would prepare it with her so that I would always know how to make it and she would never have to again. There was no recipe; just magic.
As with many Cuban meals, the foundation of a great pot of beef stew is sofrito – I use about half a cup or three “cubes” if you freeze your sofrito in ice cube trays. The key to mami’s beef stew always being so perfect was her use of a pressure cooker the meat would be fork tender. This also cuts the cooking time by about half an hour if you want to achieve that level of tenderness. I’ve always made it in a regular soup pot because after the Great Black Bean incident, old-fashioned pressure cookers scare me, even though I have always used them without incident. Fortunately, appliance makers have come a long way in making idiot proof cookers, like this one by Instant Pot which lessens the danger of having one wreck your kitchen if you don’t depressurize it properly. For the love of all that is holy, please de-pressurize your old fashioned cookers properly and completely before removing the lid!
If you’ve read through this blog before, then you know that I hardly have measurements for any recipe. I’ve done my best to provide measurements for the ingredients used.
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- 1 lb stew meat or chuck steak cut into 1/2" to 1" cubes
- 1/2 c white cooking wine
- 8oz can tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 small can of sweet peas
- Put olive oil and 1/2 c (or 4 oz) of sofrito in a large pot and heat over medium heat.
- Add all the dry spices except bay leaves. Stir together.
- Add meat, cook until browned.
- Add cooking wine, tomato sauce and one and a half cans of water(using the tomato sauce can).
- Add bay leaves and bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add peeled and diced carrots and potatoes to the pot, raise heat slightly to bring pot to a rolling boil again, then reduce to med heat. Cook an additional 30 minutes or until meat and vegetables are tender. Serve over white rice.
- The above instructions are for a standard cooking pot. If you're using a pressure cooker, cook the meat for 30 minutes, then depressurize the cooker fully before opening it to add carrots, potatoes and peas. Bring to a boil again, then close the pressure cooker and cook an additional 15-20 minutes. Again, fully depressurize the cooker before opening the lid. I will not be held responsible for your improper use of a pressure cooker.