Taking back beef stew.

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I love my mom. For reals. End of discussion.

With that fact firmly established, I will go on to say that our cooking styles… tend to differ. I cook what I like, she cooks what she likes, and never the twain shall meet. Of course, when I was a kid, what she liked had better be what I liked — like it or not — because that’s what was on the dinner table that night. Although on the whole, I was never an especially picky eater (unlike, say, my sister), but I would just about cry when it was time for the meal I dreaded most: beef stew. I’m not going to dissect her beef stew; I’m just going to say I did not like it at all and leave it at that.

So, when I saw stew beef on the FreshDirect site, I decided it was time to see if I genuinely don’t like beef stew or not. I knew I could make something close to beef stew (bÅ“uf bourguignon, etc.) that I would like, but instead I wanted to make something as close to what my mom would make as possible. And obviously, I didn’t want to call her up and go, “Hey, what’s your recipe for that beef stew I don’t like?” so instead I consulted two cookbooks: The New Basic Cook Book (1961) and Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1981).

Check out the recipe from my favorite of the two books, The New Basic Cook Book. The notation to add red wine is not my own; it came with the book.

Let’s see: no herbs, no spices, no garlic… that’s pretty much my mom’s recipe right there. Here’s what I tried:

  • 1lb. stew beef cut into cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • dried thyme
  • 1 14oz. can of beef broth
  • several generous shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 small potatoes, diced

The BH&G book suggested dredging the meat in flour before browing it, so I started with that. I browned the meat on all sides in some butter, presuming that’s what my mom would use, then added the garlic, broth, wine, thyme, Worchestershire, and some water. It simmered for about an hour, at which point I added the vegetables. The broth wasn’t as thick as I remembered it being, so I added flour as indicated in the recipe above.

After 20-30 more minutes of simmering, here is the end result:

And how was it? Pretty good! It was reminiscent of my mom’s stew without being too much like it. The only thing I’d do differently next time is to make sure all the pieces of beef are small, smaller than an inch. The smaller pieces were perfectly tender, while the bigger pieces were, well, like my mom’s — tough and sort of gummy/sticky feeling on my teeth. Bleh. Other than those couple of pieces, it was just lovely, and great for a cold rainy day like yesterday.

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6 thoughts on “Taking back beef stew.

  1. I LOVE beef stew!
    I do beef stew in my crock pot. Actually, this week I did a brisket, but same difference. It takes all day but the meat is so tender Henry actually consumes some of it (a very rare occurence).

    –zombie_mom

    p.s. I do a bouquet garni of fresh herbs (rosemary, 1 bay leaf, and thyme), use at least 5 garlic cloves, and a can of crushed organic tomatoes, and I add a shit load of chopped up parsley before serving it. Oh! Curried beef stew is great, with the whole wheat tandoori bread from Trader Joes and a .

  2. Y’know, this recipe made me seriously consider the purchase of a crock pot, because this took a hell of a long time to cook on the stove.

  3. I have one of those love/hate relationships with beef stew. Most of the time, I’m not really craving it, but every now and then I gotta have it. I agree with the smaller pieces of meat. My ma was very particular about smaller pieces of meat in her stews/soups, and she always knew best. But I admire your re-evaluation of past food hauntings. Godspeed. :)

  4. Martha Stewart has a Julia Child inspired recipe for beef stew that takes forever to make, but its so so so good. I made it twice during the subway strike last winter.

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