Recipe: Beef Stew

Yeah ok everyone has a beef stew recipe. Mine's better. 

I'm making beef stew for the usual reasons: it is cold and I want to warm up, and also, I have a whole bunch of recently-harvested potatoes that will not keep. Potatoes, they keep, it is what they do. But if they get nicked by the harvester, or scraped up, or a bug bit them, or there's a hole in them, then they won't keep as well. We sort those out from the rest, and keep them aside as seconds, and try to use them promptly.

So here's the recipe. I'm going to use approximate quantities here. It's going to vary by the size of your stew pot and how many potatoes you have, and if you like your stew really really really meaty or not. You're gonna have to use your judgement. Sorry, this ain't the Joy of Cooking. I do try, but my mom's recipes all came to me with quantities like "enough" and cooking directions like "until done", so-- some recipes I can be exact with. Not this one.

So I'm going to assume that one package of stew beef is like, around a pound or so? Maybe? And for "stew beef" you can read chopped-up chuck roast, or whatever you usually make stew with. If I think the meat is going to be tough, I just cut it extra-small. 

Cut the meat into small pieces, and dredge them in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. Brown in oil, fat or lard in a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet, or in the bottom of your heavy saucepan. Don't worry if there's a bunch of flour in there and it kinda burns and sticks to the pan. You want that. The meat doesn't have to be done through, you just want to kinda sizzle a crust onto it here and there, to keep it from going gray and flavorless when it gets boiled.

Meanwhile, cut up a couple of pounds of potatoes, several carrots, a stick or four of celery (depends what you like), and a medium-sized onion. Throw them in your stew pot. 

Dump the browned meat over the vegetables, and refill the dirty frying pan (there should be all kinds of drippings and flour stuck to the pan) with water. Bring that up to a boil. Dump that into your soup pot; this is the base of your stock and will cause the broth to thicken properly into stew. 

If you're really trying to get through those potatoes before they turn, add more. Add additional water until all the ingredients are well-covered. 

Season with salt and pepper, and rubbed sage. Yes, sage. The kind you get in a glass jar sort of tastes a little like dust, so I recommend highly that you use recently-fresh sage. We grow it in our herb garden; fresh and diced is fine but what's super easy is to hang the fresh leaves from a twist-tie or something somewhere in your kitchen, and once they're dry, you can rub them into a powder as needed, or all into a jar at once to use within the season.

Simmer your stew for an hour or two-- or alternately, instead of a soup pot, use a crock pot-- just brown the beef in the frying pan first, you can't skip that step. 

I can't find my dumplings recipe, but that's my favorite thing to top this with. I didn't, tonight; I figured there were enough potatoes in it that I didn't need the starch. Serve hot, and I like to mush the potatoes with my fork prior to eating my bowl, so the whole thing becomes a delicious gravy slurry. Your mileage may vary.

I'm still learning how to use this site, so the attached photo may or may not show, but is some of this year's potato harvest, with a tote of windfall apples along for the ride.