By The Flying Enchilada, Flickr.com, Used with Creative Commons License
Stew. One of the dishes that we share with our ancestors, even when we aren’t thinking about the historic roots. It probably ranks right up there with beer as one of the most ancient foods in our repertoire. A hearty, meaty dish perfect for fall and winter with it emphasis on root vegetables and whatever meat the hunter hauls home, everyone needs a good stew recipe in their kitchen.
Stew. Versatile. If your hunter is not dragging home a deer to cut up for venison steaks and roasts and stew meat, the stew recipe accommodates beef–even using up some tougher cuts. ( I have discussed here my reaction to hunting by the men in the family–and how common it was when I was growing up in Ohio.)
Beef Stew (or venison or squirrel, or whatever meat you choose) is a joy to cook because it is so forgiving. You can adapt the stew recipe to your own tastes, adding and subtracting seasonings as you like.
I also love the fact that leftover stew just keeps getting better. If you can resist eating it all up on the day you make it–when the house smells all meaty and garlicky and delicious from the long simmering concoction on the stove–put it in the fridge for the next day. Your patience will be rewarded.
I recently read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn, who grew up mostly in Michigan. You can find a complete review of her food memoir at my sister site, A Traveler’s Library. Here at Ancestors in Aprons, it will join our page of “Food Books that Stir Family Memories,” and I could not resist sharing her Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe. Doesn’t that sound like just the kind of food memory we like to talk about here?
Although stew is one of the things I make without a recipe–tossing in herbs (usually Italian, sometimes French) and chopping whatever veggies I have on hand (I like to add rutabagas), I like the suggestions in this recipe. It adds a bit of vinegar, balanced by a bit of brown sugar, which I imagine helps tenderize the meat and add a richer flavor. Also, the thought of using allspice for flavoring strikes me as inspired.
I totally agree that browning the meat adequately is the key.
Grandpa Charles’s Beef or Venison Stew
Beef Stew from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good
||3 hours, 30 minutes|
Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (plus more as needed)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2lb beef or venison meat (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 2 tablespoons vegetavel oil (plus more if needed)
- 2 cups hot water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 quart water
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 5 carrots (diced)
- 1 onion (diced (about 2 1/2 cups))
- 6 stalks celery
- 1 bay leaf
- 1lb potatoes (peeled and diced)
- 1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)
||Mix together 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper and flour in a large bowl until well blended. Toss the meat with the flour mixture to coat well. |
||Add the oil to a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, brown the meat well on all sides in batches; add a bit more oil if needed. Return all the meat to the pan. Add the hot water, allspice, vinegar and sugar. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is starting to get tender. |
||Add the water, tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Put the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few more grinds of pepper on top. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for another hour, or until the meat is tender. |
||Then add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until they are softened. |
||Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper and stir in the parsley. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. |
From BURNT TOAST MAKES YOU SING GOOD: A Memoir of Food & Love
from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Kathleen Flinn, 2014.
Katherine Flinn attaches the following note at the beginning of the recipe, found on page 129-131 in Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.
“The key is to get the meat good and brown,” Mom says of Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe. “If it looks a bit charred, that’s about right.” If desired, add 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves with the carrots and onions. If the meat is particularly tough, you’ll need to simmer it longer. I like to serve this with hot buttered noodles; see Della’s Homemade Noodles (page 250).
Photo shown with recipe by Valerie Lam, Flickr.com, used with Creative Commons license.