Thursday, July 7, 2011

Best Ever Beef Stew

This is a family favorite, one my mother made for many years, and I've been making for over 20 years. Here's what you'll need:
a kettle of boiling water
lard or cooking oil
a large, heavy pan, preferably cast iron, and deep
about a cup of flour, or more
salt/pepper in the flour
about 3 tablespoons of Worchestershire Sauce
1 1/2 lbs. of stew meat
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces.
2 large carrots, chopped into bite-size pieces
a cup or so of frozen peas

First, blend the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl (I use a pyrex). Put your meat pieces in there and stir until they're all well-coated. Heat your oil or lard on medium heat. You're not deep-frying, so you don't need a lot -- I'd say about 1/2 - 3/4 cup. If you need to add more as you cook the meat, that's fine. Brown the meat on one side, then turn them over.
I had a photo of the fried meat, I promise. Don't know where it went.

After all the meat is browned (don't try to cook it through; it'll have plenty of time to cook later), remove it all (I brown mine in batches), and turn down the fire a bit. You should have some oil left over, maybe 1/4 of a cup. Add some of your leftover flour to this. You're making a roux. (I had pics of this part too, and they disappeared.) So you want about equal parts of oil and flour. It shouldn't be liquid, and it shouldn't be a stiff paste either. Allow the oil/flour to bubble and brown a bit, but don't let it burn. Stir constantly at this stage.

Now here's the fun part! Take your kettle of very hot water that's been simmering on the back burner. Pour the water carefully/slowly into the roux, while stirring. You'll get massive steam and any children in the room will go, "Wow, Mom!" But the water will settle down, and you'll keep stirring gently until all the roux is mixed into the water. You have just made a luscious gravy. Add the Worchestershire sauce at this point. I always use Lea & Perrins, because it is by far the best. Use more or less of it, according to your taste
Because of the salt in the flour, and the salt in the Worchestershire sauce, I'm careful about adding too much additional salt to this stew. We salt at the table.

Okay, put the meat chunks back into the gravy, put a lid almost covering it, turn down to LO, and allow the meat to simmer for 30 - 45 minutes.
Peel your potatoes. I peel for this recipe because, otherwise, the little pieces of peeling come off while the stew is cooking, and it's just icky. I don't peel the carrots. Use more or fewer potatoes/carrots as you like. Add onions or other veggies, but this combo is, I think, perfection.
Add your veggies into the pot. Add more hot water, if there's not enough gravy.You should allow at least an hour for them to cook. I don't like firm veggies AT ALL.
Add the peas to the stew about 20 minutes before serving, just enough time for them to warm through, and for the stew to regain its temperature.
You must stir this stew as it cooks, or the meat and veggies will settle to the bottom and burn. Scrape firmly along the bottom to get them off of there.
And, yes, I meant to take a picture of my bowl of stew at the dinner table, but I "plum fergot," as they say. Here's what was left, after all six of us ate:
And here's what was left of the corn bread:
I just realized I've never posted my cornbread (actually, Tasha Tudor's recipe) on my blog, since it's not on my Cooking Page, so I'll need to do that sometime too.  At last! I have remedied this omission! Please click here to find the cornbread recipe.

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