Monday, September 23, 2013

Beef Stew, Only-Mama Style

My Best And Most Awesome Beef Stew Ever.

I like to cook sometimes, like when the planets are in alignment and I can't think of anything to write and I'm not ready to nap.  What I don't like to do is follow directions.  I hate to be told to do. It gets my dander up.

Today I decided to make beef stew, and although I know how to make predictable, mediocre beef stew, I wanted to make really excellent beef stew.  Knock your socks off beef stew.  Beef stew that was, I'll say it, savory and scrumptious. But I don't like to be told what to do. Not by my parents, not by cookbooks, and not by online recipe websites. 

I didn't want to do it the way they told me, because then it wouldn't be creative and personal and all things good. It would be simply following directions, and a monkey can follow directions, so where's the satisfaction in doing that well?  Instead, I found two completely different recipes online and flipped back and forth between the two, mostly following a lot of both of them.  

Here's my beef stew mash up recipe:

- beef that is sold in a package already cut up into stew sized pieces. I have no idea what cut of meat it is or how much it weighed.  It just looked appropriate. 
- week old left over already cooked sausages, probably of italian or polish descent.
- mushrooms, one package, not two as the recipe specified, because who wants two packages of mushrooms in their stew? Besides mushroom growers, of course.
- celery
- carrots
- onion
- red potatoes, not white, because they are cuter and easier to cut and everyone accepts that it is ok not to peel red potatoes. It's like an unwritten racist law that all white potatoes must be cleansed of their sins, I mean skins, but red potatoes add color and interest with their skins intact.  
- parsley
- bay leaves (it is totally OK if you accidentally drop them on the floor first)
- rosemary
- salt 
- pepper
- flour (we call this Aunt Jemima's pancake mix in my house)
- cornstarch
- "burgundy" wine, whatever that is. I drink Pinot Noir.

1. Place raw meat, flour, salt, and pepper in a ziploc bag and shake to thoroughly coat beef pieces.  Well, all that recipe reading and emailing of ingredient lists left me with a ziploc bag and no flour in the house, and no desire to go back to the store to get it, so I used pancake mix instead.  Yes, I do this all the time, and no, no one can ever tell.  It's just like flour, except with magic extra things that make it pancake-like but not in a beef-negative way.  It's fine. Really.

2. Brown coated beef in oil.  Add Worcestershire sauce. Oh, shit, I almost forgot the Worcestershire sauce! I had to add it fast, before the meat was half-cooked, so I didn't have time to measure. I just sloshed enough around to darken the top side of the pieces of meat.  It smelled good. It worked.

3. While the beef is browning, add 2 beef bullion cubes to two cups of water in a different pot. Or, if you missed the part of the ingredient list that specified bullion cubes and bought granules like I did, just pour some water into a really big pot and add a couple big tablespoons of granules.  Again, it smelled right and turned the appropriate color. Close enough.  

4. Cut up about half a bunch of celery and most of a pound of carrots, something resembling the equivalent of three white potatoes worth of red potatoes and throw them in the bullion water. Add the browned beef.  

5. Take the beef cooking pan and pour however much pinot noir is left in the bottle into it. Measuring cups are for the weak!  Add cut up mushrooms. Let it simmer until you are done cutting up the week old sausage then throw all of that into the big pot.

6. Cut up some onion, like about half an onion, as long as that much doesn't make your eyes water. Place onion in the beef/mushroom cooking pan with a bunch of butter.  Drop butter on stove and scrape up with spatula and throw in pan anyway.  Add way too much minced garlic from the jar you've had in the fridge for God-knows how long.  Take some garlic back out because you realize that you are not really trying to kill Dracula here.  Wrap up excess minced garlic in tinfoil and place in ziploc bag and then throw out so you don't accidentally stink up the house.

7. Try to measure out a teaspoon or two of rosemary, but accidentally pour in double the amount.  See? Measuring spoons are useless.Don't even waste your time with them.

8. Throw the garlic-onion-butter mixture in the big pot.  Take the bay leaves that neither recipe called for but you know your mother always used so you found in the fresh produce section and were all proud of yourelf.  Nevermind that someone accidentally spilled them all over the floor in the check out line and you felt too guilty to put back so you bought them anyway.  Wash them off. Add a couple to the pot.

9. Remember that you were supposed to add parsley.  Try unsuccessfully to open plastic seal of parsley with your teeth, give up and use a knife as quickly as possible because you were supposed to add this special ingredient like forever ago.  No time to measure. Add a  little more because parsley is really just like dried up grass, isn't it? I mean what is its purpose in life besides adding greenness?

10. Stir and taste periodically for 2-3 hours.  Add pepper because you think it might be too bland.  Add more pepper until you think you might have added too much pepper and ruined it.  You didn't. It's fine.

11. Go back online and google, "How to Add Cornstarch to Stew" and follow the directions very carefully twice.  The first time add the carefully measured teaspoon or three of cornstarch to one cup of cold water, mix to form a slurry, and add slowly to your pot of boiling stew.  Note that nothing happens.  Worry about diluting stew broth with more water, so carefully remove one cup of stew juice (or something similar to a cup, because all the measuring cups somehow ended up in the dishwasher already although you don't recall using them. Oh, pancakes for breakfast. Right.) and put the juice in the freezer to cool down because cornstarch thickening is science and if you don't use cold water you will fuck this shit up. Wait an hour or maybe only fifteen minutes. It's hard to keep track when you are hungry.

12. Start to add the cornstartch to the beef juice and accidentally pour in double.  Stir helplessly to form a  slurry in a confused manner until your dinner guest offers to do it for you.  Let them.

13. Make everyone wait an extra fifteen minutes after they said they were ready to eat while you whip up a can of refrigerator biscuits.

14. Serve stew in bowl.  Bask in the adoration of your dinner guests. 

Do you see why I get all insulted when my mother implies that I don't know how to cook? Obviously, I am fabulous in the kitchen.  Best.  Stew.  Ever. 


  1. Lol once in awhile I get asked for a gluten free recipe, and I have to spend hours finding the original recipe and then remembering the substitutions I made!

  2. You will not believe this, but the only difference between your non-recipe stew, and mine, is that I put in cabernet, because that's what I drink, and I used whole wheat flour, because I ran out of white flour (and didn't have any pancake mix), oh, and a dash of worcestershire sauce - becauce MY mom put that in stew :) it sounds wonderful!


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