Cold and drizzly outside, with wet, heavy winds whipping leaves out of trees? That’s stew weather, brother. This past Sunday we broke out the dutch oven and Weber Smokey Mountain to put together a hearty, savory stew that’s rich in flavor and textures.
Inspired by a smoked barbacoa recipe from Steven Raichlen, but knowing my crowd (my wife and kids), I substituted a hefty boneless chuck roast for pulled pork and omitted some of the Mexican elements.
For a base, start with about 2/3 stalk of celery, one big yellow onion, and about a 1/2 lb of baby carrots, all chopped, with a couple minced garlic cloves.
Add in 5-7 peeled and cubed medium red potatoes, two de-seeded diced poblano chilies, and a large can of diced stewed tomatoes (including all the juice). Finely chop half a bunch of cilantro and toss in a couple bay leaves. Season with generous shakes of sea salt and coarse black pepper, a sensible couple dashes of cumin, and a good dose of Italian seasonings. Mince fresh rosemary as well, and top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
Add water up to the 2/3 full mark, which was about 1 liter in this Dutch oven with all the veggies.
This particular thick cut boneless chuck steak weighed about 2.75 lbs and got a generous coating of sea salt and coarse pepper on both sides, before getting set right atop the heaping pot of vegetables.
It just happened that the length of the steak aligned nicely with the circumference of the Dutch oven. That harmony was a sign of things to come.
Put the Dutch oven on the top rack of the smoker, as room allows. I have a 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain, which has a high ceiling lid and permits a tall set up like this.
I loaded the smoker with hardwood lump charcoal and several logs of apple wood. No need to fill the deflecting bowl with any water for humidity since the steak would be steamed naturally from the water as it turns to broth.
After an hour of heavy smoking, the steak began to get a rosy smoke color.
After nearly three hours, the water level had begun to rise as the meat sank into the veggies and the Dutch oven contents started to soften. A few bubbles percolated from the stew.
After three hours, pull off the steak and check the underside. It won’t have any smoke (obviously – it’s been sitting in vegetables and broth). This is a good time to remove the thyme sprigs and stir up the stew. I noticed that my potatoes and carrots were still quite firm and the broth was not boiling consistently.
After adding some more sea salt and stirring things up, I added the thyme back onto the top of the veggies and put the chuck steak back on the stew. This time, though, put the smoked side of the steak down and the “wet” side up. This will get the steak evenly smoked on both sides and will let the smoky, charred side of the steak soak into the broth and add some more flavor to the soup.
Refueling with charcoal and apple wood as needed, I kept my fire at about 225 Fahrenheit (as read from the lid thermometer) for the first three hours. To get the vegetables to cook and create that rich stew broth, I amped up my smoker temperature to about 275-300 by opening all three bottom vents and letting the fire really get going before closing the front door of the WSM.
After six and a half hours, I transferred the Dutch oven to a cooking pan with oven mitts and brought it all in to plate.
Fabulous color on the chuck steak, served family style on a platter.
To serve, shred off some super tender beef and set in the bottom of a bowl. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the Dutch oven. Ladle a bunch of the pot contents right on top. Serve with fresh biscuits, croissants, or sliced sourdough bread.
Great pink color on both sides of the chuck steak, which was beyond juicy. It pulled apart perfectly and had layers of flavor. The poblano peppers, cumin, and cilantro added some depth and a nice Mexican zip as compared to most traditional root veggie stews.
This is a top notch, hearty meal for fall or winter. Labor-intensive with the vegetable prep, but standard grill monitoring thereafter.
We considered adding cubed zucchini and/or butternut squash but, again, decided against because of our audience. My wife suggested mushrooms, but the texture of stewed mushrooms would have thrown this off, in my opinion, relative to all the other ingredients.
Cost-wise, this wasn’t too terribly expensive. The steak was about $10, and all the veggies were another $10 or so, though we had all those laying around the house. Running the WSM hard for 6+ hours did use most of a bag of charcoal and a half bag of apple wood logs, so perhaps another $10+. With a salad and fresh bread, this is a $40 meal that takes 30-45 minutes prep time, 6+ hours to cook.
There was plenty leftover with two adults and four kids eating – enough for two large lunch servings the next day. (It reheats well in the office microwave and the coworkers nuking noodles or frozen stuff will wonder what amazing thing you’re heating up that’s making the kitchen smell so good.)