Beef Stew

(courtesy of Jennifer Rachel Baumer. Serves 4)

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There's a trend in some quest-type fantasy novels for characters who are on the road going from one part of the adventure to the next to stop at night and prepare stew. I'm impressed by their ability to either forage for root vegetables as well as flour, stock or bouillon, and salt, or to carry it in their packs — along with the cast-iron Dutch oven.

Provided you're not on the road but in your kitchen and finished with the foraging, this is a simple, fairly quick beef stew to warm up with on cold winter nights.

1¼ to 1½ pounds chuck roast

Unbleached, all-purpose flour

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons Crisco or other solid vegetable shortening

4 beef bouillon cubes or equivalent

4 to 6 fist-sized waxy white or yellow potatoes

Baby carrots

Frozen petite peas (optional) 

Wash and chop potatoes and carrots into bite-sized pieces. In a medium-sized pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil, then let simmer until fork tender. Drain and reserve.

Cut roast into bite-sized pieces. In a container that can be closed (brown paper bag, plastic bag, storage container, or glass jar with lid) sprinkle in 2 to 3 tablespoons flour, a teaspoon of sea salt, and pepper to taste. Add the cut up roast, seal the container, and shake until the roast is coated.

Melt the Crisco in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add flour-coated pieces of beef and brown until mostly cooked through.

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Add 4 cups boiling water to beef bouillon cubes. Add slowly to browned meat and flour, scraping bottom of pot to loosen fond and using liquid to deglaze. Add another teaspoon or 2 of flour until liquid forms a thick gravy. Add drained potatoes and carrots, and the frozen green peas if using. When mixture comes to a boil, add about 1 teaspoon of sea salt, stir and cover; turn heat to simmer until you're ready to serve.

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