By Jan Roberts-Dominguez Herald Columnist
It began with an e-mail from my pal Vickie Taylor: “Need recipe for Makes Lots of Beef Stew.”
When I pressed her for more details, like when the article ran or the actual title of the recipe, she wrote back: “It’s the one where you were teaching a reporter to cook. It is years old! Thanks for your help.”
With that info I was able to launch my computer search engine and came up with the recipe I taught Gazette-Times copy editor Paul Meznarich back in October 1997.
When I sent it on to Vickie she quickly sent her appreciation, adding “I love this stew. Time to run it again in your column? I have given it to lots of people. With the weather cooling and the rain coming, I could not stop thinking about this recipe to cook up for the week.
“Also, Hungarian mushroom soup from Moosewood Cookbook.”
Well, that certainly put me in the mood for making my own batch of stew. Particularly my Makes a Lot Beef Stew, which is rich and beefy, and like the recipe says, makes plenty for dinner beyond day one. So why not a recipe rerun?
You could get by with less, but since this recipe takes more time than your usual drive-through meal to prepare, you might as well make plenty!
This amount of stew will feed one person for several days (to avoid getting sick of it, you might as well go ahead and freeze at least half for another time). It also makes a nice meal for a company of six.
Makes a Lot Beef Stew
3pounds “stew meat” (see note)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2tablespoons olive oil
1cup dry red wine (such a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel or Merlot)
1cup beer (consider a pale ale or amber ale, which would provide a bit more flavor than a lighter beer made in the lager style)
2teaspoons beef bouillon granules
2teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
2medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 8ths
2medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
About 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs (like 3 tablespoons of parsley, 2 teaspoons of sage and 1 teaspoon rosemary)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks, trimming away as much of the fatty areas as your temperament will allow. But don’t go crazy, because a certain amount of fat will add flavor to the stew.
Now get your hands on as large and heavy a pot as you can. It needs to be at least 3 quarts in size, and one that can go in the oven (while its on) without getting ruined. If you’ve been given something in cast-iron that would be a good thing to use. If you’ve been told it’s called a “Dutch Oven,” that’s even better.
Place your pot over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil and when the pot and the oil are very hot, add about 1/4 of the cut up meat. It’s important not to crowd the meat or it won’t brown well. Brown the meat thoroughly on all sides; it will take about 3 to 5 minutes per batch. (Hint: You can tell your chunks of meat have browned properly and can be rotated to another side for browning because it turns very easily. No sticking. The pan actually “releases” the meat when it’s browned enough). The time will go much faster if you have a ballgame on, or have a friend to talk to at this point.
When the first batch of meat is well browned, remove it with a slotted spoon or a spatula (so the oil will stay in the pot), and place it on a plate. Repeat the process until all of the meat has been browned.
Now dump all of the meat and juices back into the pot, along with the wine and beer. While the pan is all hot and sizzling, scrape and stir vigorously to remove all of the cooked-on bits of food so they can dissolve into the sauce. This is called deglazing your pan. It adds a lot of flavor to your stew down the road.
Now add the water, beef bouillon granules, Worcestershire, onion and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pot and carefully place it in the pre-heated oven (If you forgot to preheat the oven, don’t panic, just stick the pot in and turn on the oven now. It’s better late than never).
Bake for about 2 hours. This is the easy part. The hard part is remembering to come back in 2 hours, so you might consider setting a timer, or renting a 2-hour video, so you have some frame of reference for when your stew needs more attention.
After 2 hours, add the celery, carrots, potatoes, and the fresh herbs to the pot, then replace the cover and continue stewing until the meat and vegetables are really tender. This may take up to one more hour. Remove the pot from the oven and taste the stew. It will most likely need to have the flavors adjusted by adding salt and pepper, maybe some more herbs or Worcestershire sauce, or anything else you can think of.
That’s it, you’ve got stew.
Note on “stew meat”: This is a great way to use cheaper cuts. Try to avoid buying packages of meat that are already cut up and labelled as “stew meat.” As long as you know what cuts to look for that YOU can cut into stew meat, why pay extra — and you will — for the butcher to do such a simple task?
We used a part of the chuck called “Mock Tenders,” which are anything but tender! The meat is lean and tough, but cooks into an extremely tender meal when stewed. Another cut to look for is a boneless chuck-eye roast, or something labelled, simply, boneless chuck. Of course, if you find a hunk of chuck with the bone still in, that’s perfectly fine too.
Makes up to 6 servings.
Mollie Katzen’s Hungarian mushroom soup
2cups chopped onion
4tablespoons butter, divided
12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1-2teaspoons dill weed
2cups stock or water, divided
1tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1tablespoon Hungarian paprika
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
2teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2cup sour cream
1/4cup fresh-chopped parsley for garnish
Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of the butter. A few minutes later add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of the dill and 1/2 cup of the stock or water, tamari and paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, a few minutes. Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring frequently, over low heat for about 10 minutes, until thick. Stir in the mushroom mixture and remaining stock or water. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Just before serving, add the salt, pepper to taste, lemon juice, sour cream, and, if desired, extra dill. Garnish with parsley, if desired, before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe from “Moosewood Cookbook,” by Mollie Katzen
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at email@example.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.