My husband and I were at Safeway the other day and noticed stew meat was pretty cheap – a pound for about $4.50. A stew sounded so good in this aching cold, we grabbed a pack. I always keep the basic four vegetables in the drawer – onion, potato, carrot and celery, and of course, a few months’ supply of tomato sauce in the freezer.
I like a tomato base for my beef stew. I always start soup or stew the same way – saute chopped onions and garlic in my big green pot, then add the chopped meat, seasoning and searing the sides a nice brown before covering it with hot water. This I simmer into a nice broth.
Last night I tried something new – I added a tablespoon of butter and about the same amount of wooster (Worcestershire) sauce to the onions and garlic, then added the meat. The smell was worth it, and it added to the broth too. After about five minutes, I added three more cups of hot water, and bringing this all to a boil, threw in the potatos and carrots.
I always thaw and heat a couple of pints of my tomato sauce, get rid of the excess moisture, and add sugar, sweet basil, oregano, salt and pepper, before I add it to the stew.
While the tomato sauce was simmering, I rinsed a 12 oz can of red beans and dumped that into the stew. This I followed with about a dozen fresh green beans, snapped and chopped into bite size pieces. After these had simmered for about 20 minutes, I turned the pot up to a good boil and added a cup and a half of elbow macaroni. I let that boil hard for eight minutes before I turned it back to a low simmer and added the sauce.
A stew like this called for a batch of shortbread biscuits to mop it up. I use a recipe I got off an old can of Clabber Girl baking powder – two cups of flour (I use about a quarter cup whole wheat), 2 1/2 tsp of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt; sift this together and then “rub in” (work with your fingers) 1/3 cup of shortening. When you have a mealy mixture, add 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of milk – just add enough milk to get the mixture to stick together, not to stick to your hands. If you do add too much milk, add tiny increments of flour until it becomes dry to the touch. Knead this all together until you have a nice smooth ball (about 3 minutes) and then roll it out to about a quarter inch thickness on a floured board. You can cut them with a biscuit cutter, a glass, or, cut them in neat squares with a butcher knife. They cook quicker and puff up nice if you keep them small.
I bake them at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes – reach in and grab one and look at the bottom. If it’s good and brown, they’re done.
So, out of that giant green pot and batch of biscuits, we got two dinners. I asked my family today, can you eat another meal of soup and leftover biscuits? I am always relieved when they say “sure” without hesitation. This is a good way to work vegetables into your meals. You don’t need a heck of a lot of meat, and you certainly don’t need the best cut. And wow, the smell is truly therapeutic.