Stifado - Homemade Greek Stew.
This dish reminds me of my aunt. She use to make a killer Stifado and I remember sitting at her kitchen table happily eating away as a kid bewildered by the baby onions that tasted so good in the sauce. Some had melted away into the sauce creating a nice sweetness and some were still whole but melt in your mouth tender just like the meat. Good food memory!
That is literally where this dish transports me!
I have had many versions and I don’t really have a favourite because like any stew there’s room for variation without losing the deliciousness factor. There’s some basic components I like and prefer in my Stifado though and they are: meat, pearl onions, red wine, tomatoes and the sweet spice combo of cinnamon, clove and bay leaf along with oregano. You can add other stuff to it too like more veggies or other spices like some rosemary and thyme according to taste but I prefer it the way I described it above.
This is a pretty simple dish when it comes to flavours and ingredients but it does involve a little work. The pearl onions can be a little tedious to peel but the method below really makes things easier and actually a little therapeutic to peel those little cuties. I brown the meat separately and that means an extra pan to clean but I think that saves me a little time because I can sauté the onions at the same time. To save you from cleaning another pan though, you can use the the same pan and just add the pearl onions with the meat for the sake of simplicity.
This dish is classically made with rabbit but can be made with beef, chicken, and even veal or pork. I tend to stick with beef or chicken. If you are using chicken most definitely reduce the cooking time accordingly. It usually doesn’t need two hours, so it’s a quicker Stifado to make. My husband loves stewed beef so I usually make it with beef. Bone in for more flavour and meat chopped into chunks as opposed to tiny pieces. I also like to dredge and brown my meat because it gives the meat and sauce a nicer flavour I think.
Every Greek home has different tastes when it comes to what you will serve this Stifado with or over.
Most typically it’s served over buttery egg noodles or in Greek hilopites, which if you are following me along on IG you already know is my favorite way to eat Stifado. But it’s also served with orzo or rice too. It is also great on its own with lots of crusty bread.
This is a great meal to have on the weekend. Low and slow cooking is perfect for the weekend. It would make a very delicious Sunday lunch. You can literally leave it alone and let it do its thing whether you make it in the oven or stove top while you do whatever you do on a Sunday morning. This would also be great in your crockpot but I would still recommend browning your meat before putting everything in the pot. When it’s ready make your buttery noodles and put the pot on the table and dig right in. It’s best enjoyed with a table full of people you love and definitely some crusty bread, wine and some kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan cheese to grate over it. I hope you enjoy this big flavoured Greek dish that I have fond memories of.
- 1½ lbs of stewing beef cut into chunks — I like to use bone-in for more flavour but boneless is fine too
- 8-10 oz of pearl onions peeled (approx. 30) or 10-15 smaller sized regular onions peeled and chopped in half
- ¼ cup red wine
- 4-6 tomatoes chopped or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 4-6 tbsp of olive oil
- ½ cup of flour for dredging (optional)
- 1½-2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½-2 cups of broth or water plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Marinade for beef:
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped or grated
- A splash of red wine
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2-3 small bay leaves
- ½ tsp whole cloves
- 1½ tsp oregano
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Combine all the marinade ingredients with the beef and marinate for at least 4-6 hours or overnight
Peeling the pearl onions (quick and easy method courtesy of Martha Stewart)
Blanch the pearl onions for a few minutes in a pot of boiling water
Drain from pot and immediately put them in an ice bath or cold water until they are cool enough to handle
Trim the bottom end (the opposite end to the pointy one) and squeeze the onion out of its peel
Remove meat pieces from marinade (reserve marinade) and dredge meat in flour and set aside
Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in a medium sized skillet or pan to medium and brown meat on all sides in batches and set aside (add more olive oil if needed a tablespoon at a time reserving two for the onions)
Meanwhile in your stewing pot or pan on medium heat add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the onions and lightly sauté for a few minutes until they are light golden brown
Once you are finished browning the meat, deglaze the pan by adding the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the brown bits and all the flavour from browning the meat and put all that goodness into the stewing pot where the onions are sautéing.
Also add the meat along with the remaining marinade, tomatoes, paste, broth or water and gently stir everything together and season well with salt and pepper
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover pot and let meat simmer away and cook for approx. 2 hours until meat is fall off the bone tender. Of course occasionally stir and check to see if the stew needs more water or broth.
Once the meat is tender remove lid and cook off extra liquid for a few minutes until you have a nice rich and thick sauce.
Serve with crusty bread or like I did with egg noodles (hilopites) topped with Parmesan cheese or kefalotiri Cheese if you have access to it.
- Once everything is in the pot bring it to a boil and then cover and put in a preheated oven (350 ° F) for approx. 1½ to 2 hours checking in between until meat is tender. Remove lid and let it continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
* a note about the onions. I love them melted into the sauce with a few of them keeping their integrity. If you want them to be tender but intact — sauté them as you would in the recipe but set them aside and add them into the stew after an hour of it cooking