Cool nights call for a warming, satisfying stew. Top this one with the salty blue cheese and walnut croutons, breaking them up into the stew as you eat.
Everyone loves beef stew, and the classic version is, of course, soul-warming and delicious. But this recipe for Beef, Barley, and Butternut Squash Stew with Blue Cheese Croutons is really something special, and we know you’re going to love it.
1-3/4 lb. boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbs. all-purpose flour
4-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter (1-1/2 Tbs. softened)
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved and thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium ribs celery, chopped
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
2/3 cup pearl barley
3 dried bay leaves
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 small butternut squash (about 1-1/2 lb.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3-1/3 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
3 Tbs. finely chopped walnuts
18 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Season the beef with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and then toss in a large bowl with 2 Tbs. of the flour. Heat 1 Tbs. of the butter and the oil in a 5-1/2- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook half of the beef until browned on several sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until evaporated, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. flour and cook for 1 minute.
Whisk in 5 cups of the broth. Stir in the barley, bay leaves, sage, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the beef along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot snugly with foil and then a tight-fitting lid and braise in the oven until the beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the squash and the remaining 1 cup broth. Cover with the foil and lid and continue braising until the beef and squash are very tender, about 30 minutes more. Remove and discard the bay leaves from the stew, and then stir in the parsley and half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot.
In a small bowl, combine the softened 1-1/2 Tbs. butter with the blue cheese, walnuts, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Spread the mixture evenly onto the baguette slices. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Position a rack about 8 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Broil the croutons until deep golden-brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the stew with the croutons.
Nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 690; Fat (g): 36; Fat Calories (kcal): 320; Saturated Fat (g): 16; Protein (g): 34; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13; Carbohydrates (g): 54; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 750; Cholesterol (mg): 95; Fiber (g): 9;
Susie Middleton is editor at large for Fine Cooking magazine.