When I saw that we were going to get our first, big, winter storm of the season, I immediately headed for the store and started assembling my first big pot of beef stew of the season.
Greg, over at Death's Door published his secret recipe for perfect fried chicken a long time ago.
If Greg can share his fried chicken, I guess I can share my beef stew. It's the best fucking stew you will ever taste. Guaranteed.
I won't focus too much on specific quantities. It's a stew. The key is in the preparation...not specific ratios of ingredients.
The basic ingredients are:
A bunch of stew meat.
A mess of potatoes.
A big sweet onion.
McCormick's Steakhouse Seasoning grinder
McCormick's Peppercorn Medley grinder
2 regular cans or 1 big can of Rotel tomatoes
A bunch of real tomatoes
Some brown sugar
Some red wine or beer
A skillet with a lid
A dutch oven or other suitable stew pot with a lid.
OK. First thing to keep in mind is that this is BEEF Stew. That means the primary ingredient should be BEEF. And what goes with BEEF? Potatoes. The bulk of the ingredients are meat and potatoes. Everything else is just there for flavor and color.
Second thing is keep in mind that you should be able to get most of the main ingredients scooped into a spoon that will fit into your mouth. That means making sure the meat, potatoes, carrots and celery are all cut up into bite-sized pieces. If you buy pre-cut stew meat packs at Price Chopper, those are perfect. Cut your potatoes to be about the same size. All the other ingredients should be smaller.
BROWNING THE MEAT
Preheat your skillet
Toss in about a tablespoon of REAL butter. I use Land O Lakes. Its real fucking butter and the babe on the box is smokin' hot.
Throw in enough chopped up sweet onions to cover the bottom of the skillet. My favorite is Vidalia onions. But you can experiment with purple onions, white onions, little fucking pearl onions, scallions, have fun. Just make sure your brown them in real butter.
Cover the onions with stew meat. I generally use pre-cut stew meat. But you can upscale by cutting up your own roast or steaks. Go with Black Angus or even Kobe Beef if you want to go all gourmet.
Season the meat using your Steakhouse and Peppercorn Medley grinders. Be very liberal. You are of course free to experiment with other seasonings, but these two get very good, consistent results for me.
Cover the seasoned meat in sliced mushrooms. I just use regular mushrooms. But you can substitute portabellas or even morels. Be creative.
Toss in a bunch of Worcestershire sauce. Or soy sauce. Never tried that, but it would probably be good.
Cover the skillet and let that shit cook. Toss it around occasionally until the onions are caramelized and the meat is browned and done.
Then just dump ALL of that concoction into the stew pot. Don't drain anything! Put it all in!
Repeat these steps until all of your stew meat is cooked. I usually do about 3 skillets worth. Remember, its BEEF stew!
ALL THE OTHER SHIT
While the meat is browning:
Open the Rotel tomatoes and throw them in the stew pot.
Set the heat under the stew pot to simmer.
Toss in a handful of brown sugar.
Chop up the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and celery and throw them into the stew pot.
Add the skillets full of cooked up stew meat as they become ready. Just dump all that shit in there.
After everything has been browned, chopped and tossed in the pot, you will need to add some more liquid. I usually start with some extra Worcestershire sauce. But you still need more liquid. This is where you can really get creative. The easy answer is somewhere between a half and a full bottle of beer. But which beer? You can play around with lagers, dark foreign beers, wheat beers, designer beers, go nuts. You can also substitute the beer with red wine. Again, lots of room for experimentation with different wines.
I've also been known to throw in a bunch of green beans. Experiment with different potatoes, different onions. Maybe add some bell peppers. Some cilantro. I've will occasionally toss in a couple of bay leaves.
No two pots of stew are exactly the same, but every one is fucking delicious!
After all of your ingredients are in the pot, cook them over a very low heat for 2-4 hours. Stir it occasionally and keep reducing the heat to just barely what it takes to make it boil. When the entire big pot is still boiling when your heat has been reduced to barely a simmer, cook it for another hour or so.
Your house will be filled with the most incredible aroma and ambience. Anyone who walks in the door, even a perfect stranger, will immediately feel welcomed and at home.
When it's finally done, don't eat it. You can if you want...won't hurt anything.
But if you let the pot cool to on the stove for a bit, put the entire pot into the fridge over night, and then re-heat it on the stove the next day?
EXFUCKINGSQUISITE! You got to let all that shit mingle and get to know each other. NEVER just scoop out a bowl and pop it in the microwave! ALWAYS reheat the entire pot, slowly, on the stove and then take what you want of the stewy goodness. Put the rest back in the fridge.
Hot Buttery French Bread
Hot Buttery Texas Toast sprinkled with shredded cheese and put under the broiler.
Hot Buttery Biscuits
Hot Buttery Crescent Rolls
Hot Buttery Cornbread (with honey)
Follow my instructions and it won't matter if its 50 fucking degrees below zero outside and the entire house is buried in snow.
You will feel all warm and cuddly.
Especially if you wash the whole thing down with a few glasses of small batch bourbon and put a fire in the fireplace.
Happy fucking winter!