Thursday, January 10, 2013

Soup Series: Beef Stew - the Frugal (and Luxurious) Way

Saturday afternoon, I have a talk to give. Friends are coming for supper...what can I give them that's a tad sophisticated, yet easy?

It's going to be beef stew, a hearty mixture of tender beef and vegetables, topped off with dumplings. You can make this dish any number of ways, from frugal to more lavish. Take a look at the recipe below; luxury additions are in parantheses.


More beef stew recipes here, at
2 pounds cubed chuck roast
     (substitute round steak, or even better, veal. For a really gourmet touch and tender results, use -- I'm not kidding! -- filet mignon)

3 beef bouillon cubes  (add a cup of red wine, as well. A few cans of beef broth may be used, instead)
2 chopped onions   (plus a few tablespoons of dry onion soup mix. Or leek soup mix. Substitute shallots for the onions.)
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms   (or a whole pound...or skip both, and just dump in a can of mushroom soup. This isn't luxury, but it sure is good)
4 cut-up carrots
1 can green beans (or fresh beans, snapped in smaller pieces) 
1/2 cup barley (I always skip this...but the family likes it. sigh)
     (plus any chopped fresh or dried herbs you like - about a tablespoon)

4 chopped potatoes (use a pound of red baby potatoes or yellow ones for extra flavor)
1/4 cup cornstarch

Dumplings (recipe follows)

This works best with a kettle or even better, a crockpot. Brown the meat and onions, then dump into the pot, scraping to get those nice brown bits. (In a hurry? Skip browning altogether. This step just gives the flavor more depth.) Dump the other ingredients in, up to the potatoes. (This is also the time to add any leftover veggies you might have, chopped. Stay away from the strong-flavored ones, like broccoli. Small amounts of leftover soup, potatoes, etc. can also go in.)  Add enough water to cover everything, with about an inch overhead.
    Let simmer for at least 2-4 hours, or up to 12 hours on low in a crockpot. Add water as needed, if the mixture gets too dry. About 30 min. (if you're using a kettle) or 1 hour (if a crockpot) before serving, add the potatoes. (You can put these in at the beginning...but they get a little soggy. I prefer them dry.)
    Is the stew done? Taste it, and add salt and pepper. Stir the cornstarch into a little cold water, and add it to the stew. Drop the dumplings on top (see below) and cook an additional 10-15 min., until the dumplings are firm to the touch. Serve in deep bowls, with a dumpling on top.
   Or skip the dumplings altogether, and serve as-is, or over rice. Serves 4-6 hungry people; up to 8 over rice.

Look out the window at the cold, blowy night outside and feel smug. Yum. 

Dumplings:   Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 pinch of soda, and your choice of dried herbs - marjoram, basil, rosemary and sage are good. (About a teaspoon's worth.)
     Break an egg into a cup, then fill it with milk. Mix into the dry ingredients until you've got a coarse, lumpy batter. Dip a large serving spoon into the bubbling stew, then dip into the dumpling batter -- it won't stick this way. Cover the surface of the stew, let cover and let simmer for 10-15 min.

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