The days are beginning to get cooler here in the north, and it won’t be long before I get out the ol’ stew pot again. I wrote this silly column last winter, and, although that season isn’t back yet, winter will soon be right outside my kitchen door, and yours. I have adjusted the wording a bit, but not the recipe. So, read on, and then get ready to make yourself a warm pot of stew!
George’s One-Inch Beef Stew
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been pretty cold lately, and I think we all need something to warm us up a bit. So, I decided to share my quick recipe for beef stew. It’s something I’ve refined over the years, (if you believe that, you shouldn’t) and it’s super easy to make. My family and neighbors love it, and I hope you will too. Please note: measurements, quantities, and even ingredients can be varied. (They always are when I make it.) If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s following the rules too closely, even in following a recipe.
The very loosely defined and less adhered to list of ingredients:
You will need 1-2 lbs. of beef, (whatever you can afford right now, without selling your house) cut into approximately one-inch cubes. (This is one of the reasons I call it one-inch beef stew.)
You will also need a bunch of carrots, peeled, and also cut into one-inch lengths. (Another reason it’s one inch beef stew.) I like chunky stew, so I use a lot of carrots and I try to get those big fat over-grown looking ones and cut them a bit diagonally. My six-year-old granddaughter taught me that that shape is a rhombus. She really did. You could also use a bag of those pre-peeled finger carrots, but I don’t like fingers in my soup, so I don’t. I’d rather have a rhombus any day.
Now you will need five or six average-sized raw potatoes, cut, you guessed it, into (approximately) one-inch cubes. You can peel the taters first, if comp’ny’s comin.’
Here’s a list of the other things you will need:
1 small can diced tomatoes. What more can I say about that?
2 32 oz. cartons of beef broth. Ditto with the ‘what more can I say’ comment.
1 or 2 largish onions, peeled, chopped. (No, you can’t really ‘cube’ onions, but don’t worry about that.)
A 1-inch length of a quarter-pound butter stick. (Here we go again.)
A little bit of instant potato. (Don’t panic. It’s important.)
A smidgen of garlic salt (I got the word smidgen from my mom.)
A dite of salt. (I also got the word dite from my mom.)
A pinch or two of pepper. (I usually go for three pinches, at least.)
A few glugs of olive oil to brown the meat.
A bottle of cider vinegar … but you won’t need much of it.
A big ol’ pot with a cover to do it all in.
Now for the precision cooking instructions:
Glug the few glugs of olive oil into the big ol’ pot, on the stove. (Important, turn on the stove’s burner too.)
Brown the meat in the pot, stirring occasionally if you feel like it. Or just sip on your coffee. That’s what I do. Add at least one glug of the cider vinegar while the meat is cooking. Someone told me that vinegar tenderizes the meat. I’m not sure. I do know the whole house will soon smell like vinegar, and I like that, for some reason. If you want to get really fancy, throw the onions in now to brown them too. Also, shake in some garlic salt. Then, and this is important. Do nothing more to the meat! DO NOT DRAIN IT! Do not add anything to it. Just leave it in the pot and keep your fingers out of it. Although that beef will taste pretty yummy if you give in to temptation. (Personally, I can resist anything but temptation.)
Add both cartons of the beef broth and bring it all to a boil.
Now for the precise recipe part: Throw everything else in the list in, except for the instant potato. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Return the pot to a hard boil, then simmer until veggies are done. Sample a big carrot rhombus. If the rhombus is soft, it’s all soft.
Now, about the instant potatoes. People always ask me why I use some instant potatoes. The answer is that I use it for thickening. I just shake a box of those flakes over the pot, (for best results, remember to open the box) while stirring the stew. Let them fall like potato snowflakes if that makes any sense. It should. It will be snowing soon enough. Add whatever quantity you want. I just use enough to thicken the broth up a bit.
Now let the pot simmer just enough to fill your home with the wonderful aroma of George’s One Inch Beef Stew.
Guess what? You’re done, and so is this column. Enjoy, and stay warm!