Week 41 – I Heart Beef Photo Challenge & Smoky Beef Stew Recipe

I heart beef!

I heart faces extended this week’s photo challenge, I Heart Beef, so since I was making the beef stew recipe from the October 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine (page 90G), I thought this would be a good opportunity to try some foodie shots. Little did I realize, making BROWN beef look appetizing in a photo is HARD!

I started with taking a photo of the stew in the pot, trying to replicate the Sunset Magazine photo. That didn’t work for me. Then, I decided to plate it with a few slices of bread, which turned out “okay.” Then, I sprinkled some chives on it and it was definitely an improvement. I still think the dish tasted better than I was able to make it look. This beef stew recipe was YUMMY!! 🙂

It was a great photo challenge and i heart faces once again pushed me to practice my photog skills. To see other great beef entries, or to enter this weekly contest yourself (it’s not too late…you have until THURSDAY) click on this logo:

Since I was asked, here is the recipe which I found online here:


Bacon, smoked paprika, and chipotle chile powder (from dried smoked jalapeños) give this stew layers of smoky flavor. Prep and Cook Time: 4 hours.
Notes: You can make this a day ahead through step 3 and chill it. Add 15 minutes to the cooking time for the potatoes, since the liquid will take longer to boil. Find smoked paprika (often labeled pimentón de La Vera) at gourmet grocery stores.

Total: 4 hours
Yield: Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)


About 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
4 strips hardwood-smoked bacon, chopped
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. wedges
About 1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (see Notes)
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4- by 2-in. sticks
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced chives


1. Heat a heavy, large casserole or Dutch oven (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil. When hot, add 1/5 to 1/4 of the beef. The first piece should sizzle when it hits the pot; if it doesn’t, remove it and wait for the oil to get hotter. The pieces should not touch—you want plenty of room so the juices will evaporate quickly and the meat can brown. Cook until well browned and a bit crusted, about 5 minutes each side, adjusting heat so meat sizzles but does not burn. They’re ready to turn when they release from the pot easily. Transfer meat to a bowl and repeat with remaining meat and oil, for a total of 4 or 5 batches. This takes about an hour when done properly.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Add bacon to pot and cook until fat renders and bacon starts to brown. Transfer bacon to bowl with beef. Add onions to pot and stir in 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Transfer onions to bowl with beef. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, until it starts to turn golden and smells faintly of piecrust, about 2 minutes. Add smoked paprika and chipotle powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds.

3. Add wine and increase heat to high. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add reserved beef, bacon, and onions. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and bake until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Return pot to stove. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Add carrots and bring back to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes. Stir in butter and add salt to taste. Serve hot, garnished with blue cheese, pepper, and chives.

Note: Nutrition analysis is per 1 1/2-cup serving.

Nutritional Information
Calories:795 (40% from fat)
Fat:35g (sat 13)

6 comments on “Week 41 – I Heart Beef Photo Challenge & Smoky Beef Stew Recipe

  1. It is hard to make beef look yummy and not like dead cow. I think you did a great job!


  2. meelswa says:

    Thanks! I just realized I had a beef photo I could have used from a previous post. It’s a little more colorful. Here’s my photo and recipe for stuffed peppers. Hmmm…wonder if I can have a do-over for this week’s photo challenge?


  3. R.E. ~ says:

    Great shot! Looks quite appetizing! I am a big fan of beef stew, and I just realized that I haven’t cooked beef stew in a very long time. I will look for that recipe.


  4. Patrick says:

    Did you try this shot with different types of lighting? From my screen, it looks like you may have been using bounced or indirect mid-day light (natural lighting, aka 5000-6000K), or a bounced flash (about 5500K). Instead of using this “cooler” light, you might want to try using a “warmer” tungsten light to give the entire picture a bit of warmth. A regular household bulb may give this effect, or you can bounce a flash off of some kraft-colored cardboard to add some warmth as well. Good luck, and keep shootin!


  5. meelswa says:

    Patrick: Thanks for the feedback! I actually took the photo outside and changed my WB to 5000k (my Nikon’s cloudy WB setting) because I thought the photos taken with a warmer setting made everything look too orange. But, adding some warmth to the beef definitely would have helped. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your tips. Come back again! 🙂

    FYI – because of your comment I posted this blog entry on Beef Photos and White Balance.


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