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Monday, November 26, 2012

Perfect Beef Stew - to replace your McCormick packet!

I love a hearty Beef Stew.  Growing up in Maryland, my mom used the McCormick stew packet but I found in recent years that I'd want stew and had forgotten to buy the packet!  Finally one day I set out to make stew without the packet.  I started with a recipe from Pillsbury but I was never satisfied with how my stew would stick to the bottom of the pan!  I determined the sticking problem stemmed from coating the beef with flour in the beginning and thus making the stew too sticky and thick too early on. From that recipe, I've made modifications until arriving at this perfect non-stick-to-the-pan recipe!

This recipe will feed 5 adults and is best served with Garlic Italian Bread or brown bread from Cheesecake factory.

The Meat and Sauce

  • 1lb Stew Meat - cook in a little oil until browned
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 T Tomato Paste or sauce
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Beef Bouillon Cubes
Simmer while working on the onion and celery.

Cut in small slices, three stalks of Celery and saute in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (or one cup if you have it frozen).  Toss into the Beef mixture.

Cook beef and celery for approximately one hour on low heat with a lid on.  

The Roux

  • 1/4 cup of flour - sift if you have time, it helps reduce lumps
  • 1/2 cup of hot water
After your meat mixture has cooked for one hour, remove bay leaves and add the Roux.  I usually have potatoes cooking in a separate container at this point so I'll use some of the hot water from this pot, in theory the potato water has a bit of flavoring.  Mix quickly in a bowl, then add to the meat sauce; it should mix evenly if you stir for a few minutes to keep lumps from starting.  Once it's smooth it will not lump up.  At this point I add an additional 1/2 cup of hot water (usually reserved from the potatoes) into the stew if it looks too thick.  Add more water depending on how thick or thin you like your stew keeping in mind you still have potatoes and carrots to add so you need enough gravy to coat the entire stew.

Potatoes and Carrots

  • 5 medium size potatoes 
  • 5-6 carrots
I like to cook the potatoes in a separate container for 15 minutes to soften them.  It can take up to one hour to cook them in the stew mixture so this cuts down on the overall cooking time AND I've found that cooking potatoes for an hour in the stew contributes to food sticking to the bottom - which I dislike!

Peel potatoes (remove any bad/black spots), then chop them into bite size pieces, dump them into boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and add to stew.

Peel carrots, cut in thin slices so they cook faster.  I boil them in a small pot for about 15 minutes, drain and add to the stew.

I cook the potatoes and carrots in the stew for no more than 10 minutes and the lid must remain off or potatoes will stick to the base of the pan.  It's best to stir frequently.  I only do this step to get everything to blend well and I use this time to set the table, call the family to dinner, etc.

It really is a lovely stew and while it may seem annoying to work through all the steps (rather then dumping everything into one pot), it will result in a tasty stew that does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

This stew recipe is a result of making it at least once a month for the past 12 years; it's a big family favorite and each step has been carefully thought out.  This is really a guide to making good stew; you can feel free to mix it up and use different onions or bigger chunks of veggies.  I have toddlers so cooking in small bite size pieces works well for my family but I know it's popular to make stews with big chunky veggies.  If you do try this please come back and let me know how it worked out for you!

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