I love summer. I could happily live in the Game of Thrones world as long as it was the beginning of a particularly long summer season (and nobody killed me).
But today I made stew and tomorrow I’m making hand pies with the leftover stew bits. The hand pies are an experiment, and the stew I’ve only made twice, recreating my Grandmother’s beloved (and unrecorded) recipe. So it’s nice the weather cooperated – 70 in the evening, which is nice for a hot stew dinner, and 64 later as we got ready for bed – and nicer still that by week’s end it will be 90 again at our 5000 feet and hopefully warmer in the valley.
So here’s my take on stew, which I can’t imagine any characters in a quest fantasy making as they camp beside a road. Stew has a lot steps and they would be impossible over a campfire. I think questing stable boys who are really kings should travel with PB&J.
1 pound chuck tender roast (or your favorite roast)
5 tablespoons Crisco
1/3 cup (more or less) all purpose flour
Fresh ground black pepper
Baby carrots (or big carrots chopped to baby carrot size)
Fist-sized white or red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped to bite size
One small onion, roughly chopped (like into eighths)
2 to 4 cups beef bouillon
Scrub and chop the potatoes and carrots. Cover well with cold water in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil; continue to cook until they are just fork tender (i.e., the fork goes in but kind of has to be forced out).
Melt the Crisco over medium high heat in your favorite Dutch oven. Mine is a big cast iron pot with a lid, which was a wedding present. While the Crisco is melting, combine flour, oregano, salt and pepper in a large zipper plastic bag (or jar or other sealed container) and shake until all meat is coated. Reserve the leftover flour.
Add the meat to the melted fat and toss occasionally as it browns. Some of it will stick to the bottom of the pan. That’s fine; I make that part of my stew.
When the meat is browned but still a little red inside, add judicious amounts of beef bouillon – I believe I used 2 ½ cups tonight, and 3 to 4 handfuls of the seasoned flour to thicken. This is personal preference here – I like a thick gravy for the stew, and enough of it to be sopped up with bread. While you’re doing this, the meat is still in the pan; stir it around a bit to get up some of the drippings and coatings stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Once the gravy is to your liking, both with thickness and volume, add your drained, cooked potatoes and carrots and the chopped onion. A bay leaf probably wouldn’t go amiss, but I haven’t added one yet and didn’t feel the stew was lacking because of it. Another nice addition would be fresh or frozen petite green peas if you don’t have a significant other who acts like he or she is being poisoned by the mere sight of peas.
Turn the heat to low and put the lid on at an angle. I let it cook an hour tonight because we were watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and that was about perfect. This makes 4 servings with some nice bread to dip in it, or 2 servings and leftovers for the hand pies. I’ll post about those once I’ve made them.