Like my spaghetti and chicken soup, this filling wintry dinner starts with the recipe my mother used. But similar to her other scratch-made meals, I’ve jollied it up to fit my own taste buds.
Here’s the first and most important step.
I retrieve mom's ancient Dutch oven out of the bottom cupboard next to the oven, and place it on a front stove burner.
Heavy and a dull silver color, the pot measures 10 inches in diameter and five inches high. I wish it was a tad bigger, but it still does the job nicely, making spaghetti sauce for six and all kinds of soups for a few more bowls. The Hubster brought a larger and lighter stock pot to our marriage, but the Dutch oven makes whatever I’m cooking taste better.
I don’t know why, but it just does.
One more thing.
It’s probable that once upon a time, a brand name was etched somewhere on it. But now that this pot is about seven decades old, and has boiled and simmered and baked thousands of dinners, there’s no visible stamp anywhere.
That makes this Dutch oven that much simpler and more basic, just like the stew.
With the pot now on the burner but no flame turned on yet, I take the meat out of the fridge so it comes up to room temperature. Then I get to work slicing, chopping and assembling the requisite vegetables.
This means a large sliced white onion (preferable over yellow because it’s sweeter and milder); one cup of frozen peas which I start thawing in a glass Pyrex measuring cup, and three big carrots. Like my chicken soup, the latter are peeled and cut into sticks instead of round nickel shapes because I’m convinced they’re prettier this way.
Once the veggie prep is done, I finally heat the Dutch oven over a medium low flame, and melt a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease for the needed fat.
No other fat options are allowed.
The next step is spreading out my two-and-a-half pounds of chuck roast, already cut in one-and-a-half inch cubes at our local meat market. This is by far the most expensive ingredient with a price tag of over $25.
But heck, it’s beef stew, so the meat has to be good because it’s the star.
Just before dropping the chuck into the now-sizzling, bacon greased pot, I lightly sprinkle almond flour over every cube. I once used all-purpose flour, but now have this alternate thickener since it has more fiber and less carbs. Arrowroot could be another way to go.
I then let the cubes brown evenly, and after that add boiling water and the onion, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and spices that include sweet paprika, allspice, sugar and salt and pepper. A couple of sliced garlic cloves and broken up bay leaves are thrown into the mix as well.
When the meat and onion mixture come to a rolling boil, I reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the yumminess on a low flame for two hours. During this time, I occasionally stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom, but mostly, leave it alone. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of Kitchen Bouquet for deeper color and flavor, and if I think of it, a splash of red wine.
After this, it’s time to toss in the vegetables.
However, you might be wondering right about now why there aren’t any potato cubes, which is a brown beef stew tradition.
The answer is that I have potatoes, but make mashed spuds instead, complete with a generous amount of butter and warmed cream, as well as kosher salt and white pepper. (When I don’t want the carbs, I’ll mash cauliflower. It’s not the same and never will be, but it’s a decent substitute.)
After half an hour, I remove the now tender meat and veggies in order to transform the thin sauce into a thicker gravy. This is done by mixing a few tablespoons of almond flour and a heaping teaspoon of white flour together, along with
a quarter cup of so of the hot stew liquid. Once the concoction has dissolved, back it goes into the Dutch oven.
Pouring this in doesn’t make the liquid thicken immediately. But start stirring, give it a few minutes, and the
Once at the consistency I like, I put the meat and veggies back in to heat up for a few minutes. Then the burner gets turned off; the lid goes on, and I let everything set up for three to five minutes
While that’s happening, my already-made potatoes or cauliflower are piled onto dinner plates. When the stew is ready to eat, I use a ladle, covering the dish with at least a couple of big spoonfuls of stew. I make sure to get in as many chunks of beef as I can handle. I’m also a big fan of fresh black pepper, so I grind a bunch of that on top.
Finally, it’s time to dig in.
Chilly days don’t get any warmer.