20 February 2014

Mom's Favorite Beef Stew

Dear Old Man Winter, you've made your point.  Please leave.  I will happily forfeit next winter in advance if you would only end your relentless blustering.  Sincerely, the Craig family.  PS - Have I mentioned the pups frozen paws?

Yeah, I'm so over snow.  Maybe if there were a mountain nearby for skiing I would be singing a different tune, but I am stuck in the flattest stretch of midwestern plain around.  I mean, geeze.  The only thing keeping me sane right now is soup...pots and pots of it.  Vegetable, roasted cauliflower, lentil sausage and pesto white bean help the days ease a bit more warmly by.  But when I need a big bowl of comfort food, there is only one soup that can warm my heart and soul...my mom's beef stew.

Now I know there are millions of beef stews out there, and you likely have several pinned up or tucked away on recipe cards.  But you can get rid of all that clutter, for here is the only stew you will ever need.

I still remember making this with my mom as a little girl.  I would push a barstool to the counter beside her, climb up onto my knees and happily peel potatoes while she browned the meat at the stove, minced garlic and chopped vegetables.  And then came the difficult hours of waiting, amidst the heavily beef and garlic scented air, until it was finally time to eat.  It's not only the food that I love, it's the memories with my mother.

With so many nostalgic moments surrounding this recipe, I was very excited the first time I made it for the hubs.  Unbeknownst to me, he had never been a big fan of stews growing up.  In his words, "they were always kinda boring."  Happily, this stew is the exception to that rule.  He absolutely loves this flavorful, hearty dish.  His favorite flavor is the richness of the whole cloves.  It brings out a entirely different flavor in the beef while its unique spice penetrates the depths of the potatoes and carrots.  He also loves that this stew is hearty enough to carry a really big side.  No wimpy little salad here, folks.  You want the nuttiness of whole grains, the substance of roasted brussels sprouts and peper of a Washington Syrah....in other words, not the boring sides.

Mom always made this with Idaho russets, but I really love using little yukon gold or red potatoes instead.  Their tender skin and smooth texture is fabulous in the broth, needing only to be washed and halved before going in the pot.  And since I don't have any wee ones to do my peeling, I like cutting out this extra step.  Just use your favorite spud and you'll find it to be perfect.

Brilliant in its simplicity, perfect in its flavor and irreplaceable in my memories.  Maybe snow isn't so bad after all.....

Mom's Favorite Beef Stew (4-6 servings)
  • 1-2 lbs stew beef
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil 
  • 1 tbs whole wheat flour (or rice flour for gluten-free) 
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 beef bouillon cube in 1 c of boiling water
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves 
  • 1 onion diced 
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 c Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 2 c carrots
Place the oil in a dutch oven or large skillet over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the beef.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned on all sides.  Add the flour, paprika, pepper and salt, stirring together until the meat is evenly coated.  Carefully pour in the water and bouillon, tomato sauce, bay leaf, cloves, onion and garlic.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.  

While the meat is cooking, wash the vegetables and cut into bite-size pieces.  Once the meat has simmered for an hour, add the vegetables , and if needed extra half cup of water, broth or red wine.  Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender when pierced by a fork. 

Dish up the stew and serve hot, or store in the refrigerator and reheat throughout the week.  Perfect served with whole wheat rolls, roasted brussels sprouts or your favorite hearty side.  

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