Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hearty Beef Stew

There are certain dishes that evoke fond childhood memories...that fresh coconut birthday cake or crescent cookies and rum balls at Christmas or Dad's hush puppies with fried fish in the summer.

This beef stew is such a recipe. It was a favorite for dinner when it had been snowing all day and we had been out sledding with our friends. There was a hill down by the creek that was a favorite...easy to climb but a good swift ride down and a nice long flat area at the end to slow down in. Returning home with chilled fingers and toes and a nose that would do Rudolph the Reindeer proud it was so red, it was great to open the door and smell the rich aroma of beef and potatoes and onions. Usually we would have biscuits, too, so the kitchen would be warm from the oven being on. Even if it was my turn to set the table I didn't mind...we were having stew!

A good stew is thick and hearty and loaded with good things. The long simmering tenderizes the beef chuck (which is not the most tender of cuts) and you can even do as I do and make the first part, with just the meat, onions and seasonings and water, and then refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors to blend. The next day allow some time for it to reheat, then continue on with the recipe.

This one is my Mom's recipe and, good frugal housewife that she is, she adds leftovers whenever possible...all those small containers and plastic bags of corn or carrots or green beans or peas (to name the most popular ones) thaat have been hiding out in the fridge now have a place to go...but you can just add about 3 cups of mixed cooked or frozen vegetables of your choice. This makes a stew that is all about the beef flavor, but it isn't spicy. If you like some heat in your stew, add some cayenne or pepper sauce if you must, but try it without first...you may decide that it's perfect as written. Must be those childhood memories again, but I wouldn't change a thing!

BTW the photo is not top notch but I'm at work when there is daylight, which is what I try to use for photos. Trust me, it tastes even better than it looks!

Beef Stew
From Family Food

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 ½ -inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
1 -2 bay leaves
a dash of allspice or cloves
4 cups boiling water
6 carrots
6 Idaho potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 small can white onions or ½ bag frozen small white onions
leftover vegetables or frozen mixed vegetables
Flour and water paste to thicken gravy

Brown the meat in the fat. (If you wipe the cubes with a paper towel first they will brown more easily and spatter less.) Cook the meat in batches, removing browned meat to a bowl until all are browned. Remove any excess fat and return all the meat to the pot. (I use a large enameled cast iron Dutch Oven to cook the stew but any large pot with lid is fine.)

Add Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, bay leaves, allspice or cloves, and the boiling water to the meat in the pot. Cover, bring to a simmer and simmer 2 hours. Remove bay leaves.
Add the carrots, and the potatoes, both of which have been cut into bite sized pieces. Cook, covered, until carrots and potatoes are tender. Add the onions and any leftover vegetables desired. ( If no leftover veggies are available, add some frozen mixed vegetables or any cooked vegetables you like. I usually add at least 3 cups of veggies.)

Cover and heat through. Make a paste of flour and water to thicken the gravy. Add to the stew and simmer until thickened. (I usually use ¼ cup flour and an equal amount of cold water to make the paste, but you may want to experiment to get the kind of gravy thickness you like. I also removed some of the cooked potatoes this time and mashed them, then returned them to the pot for an even thicker stew.)

Serves 6 -8.


  1. We'll have to save this recipe for a few months - but it will be well worth the wait. Summer is here in full force, so it's all salad and cold fish now.

  2. Next Sister Down7:28 AM

    What I remember about making this stew back in the good old days was shaking the beef cubes in a small paper bag with a scoop of flour and some salt and pepper. That helps them brown easily too.

    And there was nothing like sopping up the stew gravy with those biscuits. I have a biscuit memory I'll go add to the other post.

  3. Dear Next Sister Down, I'd forgotten about shaking the cubes in flour. I guess the recipe Mom gave for the Family Food book came from a later date. Do you suppose that not coating in flour is healthier? Thanks for the memories!