What food do you crave on a cool, windy day? Stews, soups, and chili are at the top of my list. A cold front came through this past weekend bringing lower temperatures and winds over 30 mph. I figured it would be that last cold snap of the year. I had been wanting to make my dad’s beef stew and I decided it was the right time.
The recipe was adapted for a different method. My dad’s recipe instructions are for a pressure cooker and I do not have one. I used my trusty Staub dutch oven. I wanted to keep it as much to the original recipe as possible. The important part was the end result and the way it tastes. His beef stew is what I will forever judge any stew against. No other one will every be as good as when he made it. I miss my dad and wish he was here to cook it again. I remember hearing the sound of the pressure cooker when I was a kid and knowing what was for dinner. Those times made for wonderful memories I will cherish forever.
I pulled out the recipe and made a shopping list. What I discovered at the store is how things have changed over the years. The recipe called for a 16 ounce can of tomatoes and only 14.5 or 28 ounce cans are available. It appears the cans have gotten smaller. The same was for the tomato juice, the 6 ounce can has been downsized to 5.5 ounces. Based on past experience of making other slow-simmered stews, I went with a larger size carton of chopped tomatoes. The additional liquid would help since stews seem to thicken more during a slow cook than in a pressure cooker. I would rather it have a little more sauce than be too dry.
Cooking and adapting a family recipe was a lot of fun. I thought of my dad throughout the whole process. It felt as though he was beside me and helping me along the way. I could almost hear him saying “you did good” as he did so many times before.
When was the last time you cooked a family recipe? What was it? Make sure you or your family member writes down the recipe. Save it to be passed along as any treasured heirloom.
- 1 pound beef chunks (about 1 to 1½-inch chunks)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat or cooking oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- ½ cup celery, diced
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (5.5 ounces) tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 4 carrots
- 1½ pounds russet potatoes
- Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon fat in a medium dutch oven or similar pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, until browned and transfer to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onions and celery until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, and soy sauce to the pot and stir to combine. Add the beef back to the pot and stir. Bring it to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
- Peel and chop the carrots into bite-sized chunks. Add the carrots to the pot, stir, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Add the potatoes to the pot, stir, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.