One weekend when I came to PS for a visit, my Mother said she made “Souper Stew” for dinner. Thinking she said “super”, I thought to myself, stew is stew … what’s so ‘super’ about this? But it’s the best stew I’ve ever had (even if I modify it a bit when I make it … after all, that’s what having fun in the kitchen is all about, right?). But she wouldn’t mind, because the basic stew is just how she made it – with some additions I add to both extend it for extra nutrition, extra flavor, and extra servings!
And that’s one nice thing about stews … and goulash (the Hungarian stew)…. and pots of meat, gravy and local vegetables around the world … they are filling, inexpensive and delicious!
Since I’ve had a taste for stew recently, this was certainly the perfect time to make some and tell you about it! You can use meat labeled “stew meat” you get at the grocery store or, to save $$$, get a thick chuck steak or 7-bone roast, trim away most of the fat, and cut the meat into cubes. You’ll be using flavorful yet relatively inexpensive cuts of meat that are tenderized by cutting into cubes and by long, slow cooking in liquid (braising). If you get the 7-bone roast, you can roast the bone in some of the fat and use that to help brown the meat for added flavor. Some groceries carry a vegetable “stew mix” which chefs call “mirepoix” – finely chopped onion, celery and bell pepper. I never use this nor do I use the bigger packages of coarsely chopped onion, carrots and potatoes.
I like to add pearl onions (frozen are easier but OK to use fresh; just peel and par-boil them); baby carrots and mushrooms along with frozen peas. Those are my changes; Mother used whole carrots she scraped and cut into chunks. Potatoes, too: she used White Rose (boiling potatoes); I use whatever I have – red-skin, Yukon Gold, fingerlings…they all work. One day I’ll give you a stew recipe using Sweet potatoes or Yams…but not in this one!
For you who have a slow cooker (I don’t but may find I have to get one soon), you can make this in it but I can’t honestly give you the instructions. I’m guessing (!) you load in the hard veges first, then the meat, liquid and seasonings and set it to cook all day, adding the frozen peas, pearl onions and mushrooms (if using any or all) at the last minute. If you do it, please let me know the timing so I can share it!!!
Now go have fun and don’t ‘stew’ over it!
- 2 lbs. stew meat, cubed and trimmed of fat
- 2 Tbsp. oil
- 2 c hot beef or chicken stock (or hot water)
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large garlic clove, left whole
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt ** if using hot water; if using soup or stock, omit salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp. ground clove
- 6 carrots pared & quartered (or 24 baby carrots)
- 4 potatoes, pared & quartered (or equivalent depending on what potatoes you use)
- 1 lb. small, white pearl onions, optional
- 1 lb. frozen peas, optional
- 8 oz. sliced mushrooms, optional
For optional gravy:
- 1-3/4 c liquid from the cooked stew
- 1/4 c water
- 2 Tbsp. flour
In Dutch oven, thoroughly brown meat 2 Tbsp. hot oil, turning often, removing meat as it browns. Don’t overcrowd or it won’t brown. When all meat is browned, return to Dutch oven with any juices from the meat. Add the hot stock (or hot water) and the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion slices, bay leaves, salt if using, sugar, pepper, paprika, allspice and cloves. Mix so that spices blend with the liquid and are mixed with the meat.
Cover and simmer for about 1-1/2 hours until meat is barely tender, stirring occasionally so that the meat does not stick. If it starts to stick, add more hot water.
Remove bay leaves and garlic. ** See Tip from the Toque. Add carrots, potatoes and pearl onions. Cover and cook 30-45 minutes over low heat until vegetables are tender. Add mushrooms if using and stir gently so you don’t break up the rest of the vegetables.
If you want gravy: Skim most of the fat from the liquid and measure 1-3/4 cups liquid. Combine 1/4 cup water and 2 Tbsp. flour and pour it into the hot liquid from the stew, stirring continually. Pour the gravy back into the stewpot and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
Serve stew in bowls. Serves 4-5
Label with date and contents, and freeze. Potatoes, raw or cooked, do NOT freeze well in home freezers so it’s best to just freeze the meat and liquid and then, when you want it again, defrost and then add the vegetables and continue and it will taste like freshly made!