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Stew: Warming Comfort Food

Beef Stew
Beef Stew
by

Stew is the most enduring of dishes. For millenia, cooks the world over have slow-cooked bits of meat or fish in broth with whatever vegetables and spices were handy. It made a lot of sense to do so, since early cooks figured out that a puny "catch of the day" could be stretched to satisfy the appetites and, done well, delight the palates of a hungry brood. It still makes sense today.

We may no longer be out in the wilds bagging our dinner, thank goodness, but modern cooks are often faced with the same challenge -- how to stretch a food budget -- when feeding their families.

But stew has even more to recommend it. Stew has the additional advantage of convenience. It makes great leftovers, freezes well, and there's that "one pot" feature that makes cleaning up so easy.

It would be a disservice to this wonderful dish, however, to make it sound like some prescription for budgetary ills or kitchen efficiency. Stew endures, more than anything else, because it's warm, satisfying and delicious.

Stew Recipes

The recipes in this article feature five savory stews made with beef, chicken and venison. Sunday Beef Stew is precisely that: a dish you'd be proud to serve the preacher, should you ever have a preacher at your table. Green Chile Stew is pure southwestern in flavor with its mix of beef, chiles, hominy and pinto beans. Our savory Venison Stew is full of garden vegetables, while the Chicken Stew has a creamy base. No article about stew on Texas Cooking would be complete, however, without Son of a Gun stew, and it is included. You may enjoy reading the recipe, but it is doubtful that you will make it. For most of us, this is a dish from another era.

Cooler weather sharpens appetites, and whether you are feeding two or many times that, a well-prepared stew will be a mainstay in your repertoire.

Sunday Beef Stew

  • 2 pounds beef chuck cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 small onions, quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Over medium heat, brown the beef in the butter. Remove beef, and add the flour, stirring quickly until lightly browned.

Add the beef stock and stir until heated. Return the beef to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Set pan lid slightly ajar and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Check seasonings and add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove bay leaves before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Green Chile Stew

  • 2 pounds round steak cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 10-ounce cans Ro-Tel tomatoes or other canned tomatoes with green chiles
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
  • 1 cup (2 4-ounce cans) chopped green chiles
  • 1 15-ounce can yellow hominy, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
  • 2 cups beef bouillon or stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss the beef with the flour to coat. Over medium-low heat, slowly brown the beef in the oil. Add the onion and garlic and simmer, stirring frequently, for 4 or 5 minutes or until onion is transparent.

Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer at very low heat for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Venison Stew

  • 2 pounds venison cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef bouillon
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
  • 6 carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Over medium heat, brown the venison in the oil. Add the onion, garlic and celery and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is transparent.

Add the tomato sauce, bouillon and red wine. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Add the canned tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove bay leaves before serving. Makes 6 servings. We may no longer be out in the wilds bagging our dinner, thank goodness.

Chicken Stew

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 large red-skin potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size piece
  • 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
  • sweet paprika
In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onions, celery, carrots and garlic until softened and onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour is incorporated and there are no lumps,

Add the potatoes, chicken stock, salt, white pepper and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add the corn and chicken, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in half-and-half and simmer just until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with paprika just before serving.

Check seasonings and add salt and pepper, if desired. Makes about 6 servings.

Son of a Gun Stew

  • 1 pound beef neck meat, cut in small pieces
  • 1 beef heart, chopped
  • 1 set beef brains
  • 3/4 pound marrow gut, cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 pound calves liver, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • water
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cover the first eight ingredients with water in a large stock pot. Cook slowly for 6 to 7 hours until meat is done. Check occasionally and add water, if necessary.

Stir the tomato paste into the beef broth and add to pot. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Marrow gut, by the way, is not part of the intestine. It is a milk-secreting tract found in calves. Your butcher should know but, like I say, you won't make this.

Take advantage of hot stew to combat cooler weather. Home-cooked stews can be hearty and nutritious. Even if the weather is warm, there is little excuse not to reach for some simmering stew.

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