Every family has a few recipes they are famous for – that they get asked to bring to potlucks and write down on notecards over and over. In my family, three in particular come to mind: pumpkin pie, hot fudge sauce, and beef stew.
I’m pretty confident in the kitchen and don’t usually like to tether myself to recipes – trusting my tastebuds above all else – but in this case, I pull out the cookbook. This stew has a lot going on, and it has to be just so.
The foundation of any good stew is meat, browned enough to coat the pot in caramelly brown “fond” and anchor the dish in succulent complexity.
Next come aromatics – onion and garlic, cooked in fat while scraping important brown bits back into the mix.
A dusting of flour will give the liquid some body.
The main reason I need to look at the recipe when I make this dish – there are lots of spices. Especially cloves and paprika – but also pepper and sugar and worcestershire and lemon juice and bay leaves and you get it.
My favorite part of the recipe: walking away for a couple of hours.
And while you were away, stew happened.
The Recipe: Spiced Beef Stew
serves 4 (at least)
1 lb stew beef
1 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped into large chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1-1 1/2 qt. beef broth
2 tsp. lemon juice (more doesn’t hurt)
2 tsp worcestershire sauce (I tend to be generous here too)
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste (at least a teaspoon, probably more)
2 cups carrots cut in large chunks
2-3 cups cubed potatoes
-Coat meat in oil, brown over medium high heat, working in batches (at least two or the meat won’t brown properly), set aside.
-Add another tiny bit of oil to the pot, and cook onions and garlic until slightly browned (throw in a little beef broth if things start looking burny instead of brown).
– Add meat back to the pot, dust with 1/4 cup flour and stir while cooking for a minute or two.
-Add 1 qt beef broth and all ingredients from lemon juice down to salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer one hour.
– Add carrots and potatoes and additional beef broth if necessary to cover vegetables. Cook 30-40 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.
-Taste for seasoning and serve.