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Jalapeño Beef Stew with Polenta Stars

The Reata (in Alpine and Fort Worth) uses Polenta Stars to dress up one of its specials, Jalapeño Beef Stew. This version is adapted from recipes that appear in A Cowboy in the Kitchen by Grady Spears, Robb Walsh, and John Westerdahl (Ten Speed Press, 1998).  Yield: 4 servings.

6 whole shallots

1 T. olive oil

5 T. unsalted butter

1 lb. beef chuck, cut into

1-inch cubes

1/3 c. flour

3-4 jalapeños, seeded and minced

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large potato, peeled and cut into

2-inch pieces

1/2 red onion, peeled and diced

1 c. port

2 c. beef stock (fresh or canned)

1 T. rubbed sage

1 T. dried oregano

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper


Toss shallots with olive oil, and roast in a 350 degree for 35 minutes, or until soft and brown. Set aside. Heat butter in a large deep saucepan over medium heat. Toss beef with flour to coat, and place in hot butter. Increase heat, and sauté for 5-10 minutes. (Don't crowd the meat.) Remove pan from heat, and transfer meat to a bowl, reserving drippings; cover meat loosely with aluminum foil, and set aside. Sauté jalapeños, carrots, potato, and red onion in drippings over medium heat, tossing to prevent burning, until onion turns translucent. Stir in wine, beef stock, sage, and oregano. Cook over low heat, with lid slightly ajar, for 30-40 minutes. Stir in reserved beef-shallots mixture, and continue cooking for 30 more minutes, or until meat and vegetables are done. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle stew into bowls, and top with 2 or 3 Polenta Stars. Serve hot.

Polenta Stars
1 T. olive oil

3/4 c. minced red onion (about 1/2 onion)

1 c. minced shallots

8 scallions without tops, thinly sliced

3 c. water

3 c. milk

2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/4 c. unsalted butter

1 1/2 c. quick-cooking polenta

1 c. grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese


Heat oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add onion, shallots, and scallions, and sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes or until wilted. Stir in next 6 ingredients; bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Pour polenta in with one hand while whisking witht he other. After polenta is whisked in, stir with a long-handled wooden spoon 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture thickens and liquid is absorbed. Reduce eat if necessary. Remove metal pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least an hour. 

At serving time, cut polenta into stars or other shapes (unless serving as a side dish) and bake at 350-degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. (Stars may also be heated by sauteeing, grilling, or microwaving.) Serve hot. Yield: Enough stars for 2 recipes of Jalapeno Beef Stew, or 4 to 6 servings if used as a side dish. 

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