What Maggie Stuckey has found and documented in this gorgeous four-color cookbook is that the humble idea of gathering friends and neighbors on a regular basis for a casual night of soup and sides has an extraordinarily positive ripple effect on children, senior citizens, families and communities at large. The idea of breaking bread is deep-rooted in American tradition, but it’s now that our country needs to bond together, and Soup Night (Storey Publishing, 2013), is the call to action that we’ve been waiting for. The following Beef Stew Recipe is taken from chapter 3, “Winter.”
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Beef Stew Recipe
I’ve been making beef stew for a long time, and I always thought mine wasn’t half bad — until I tasted the version made by my Ocean Park, Washington, neighbor, Kennette Osborn. Her part-German grandmother taught her to make the stew, and it is really good. It helps that she has access to local beef, raised organically, and the allspice lends a touch of mystery. But what really makes it extraordinary is the surprise — coleslaw. That idea came from her late husband, which makes this a true family recipe. Take a big spoonful, she said, and stir it into your bowl of hot stew. I admit, at first I was skeptical. But trust me, and give it a try. The raw cabbage adds a nice crunch, and the dressing makes the whole thing creamy, but in a nice way. I’d change only one thing: add mushrooms. And I agree with Kennette’s suggestion to use a cast-iron frying pan.
1 cup all-purpose flour, approximately
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil (more if needed)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
3 thin-skinned potatoes (such as red, Yukon Gold, or Yellow Finn)
Make the stew:
1. Mix the flour and seasoned salt, and dredge the meat until each piece is well coated (a plastic bag makes this easy). Add the oil to a large soup pot, deep skillet, or Dutch oven and brown the meat over medium-high heat. Work in batches if needed to make sure each piece is well browned.
2. To the same pot, add the onion and garlic (add a little more oil at this point, if needed), and sauté until the onion is soft. Add enough beef broth to cover the meat, along with the sugar, allspice, paprika, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot, and reduce the heat. Simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 to 50 minutes (longer doesn’t hurt).
3. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. If the liquid seems thin, mix a little cornstarch with cold water and add it a little at a time.
Make the coleslaw:
1. Shred the cabbage (or start with a bag of coleslaw mix from the supermarket, already shredded).
2. Whisk the mayonnaise, sugar, and mustard together, and gradually add the cream until you get the consistency you like. Pour the dressing over the cabbage, mix well, and add salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasonings. Ideally, it’s best to let this “brew” for an hour or two before serving.
3. Serve the stew in shallow bowls, and pass the coleslaw so that each person can take a large spoonful to stir into the stew.
Any dish that cooks slowly for a long time in the oven or on the stove — like beef stew — is a good candidate for a bouquet garni. It sounds fancy, but it’s just a small bundle of various herbs and spices, tied together in some way and submerged in the liquid. The bundle can be created simply by tying sprigs of herbs together with twine , or by folding them into a tied packet of cheesecloth. Or use one of those screw-together metal balls meant for tea; they come in large sizes (for brewing a whole pitcher), and that’s the most versatile. The whole idea is that the essence of the herbs seeps into the dish, but the herbs themselves — now soggy and with most of the flavor extracted — are easy to remove at the end.
Discover more fall and winter soup recipes from Soup Night:
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup, by Maggie Stuckey and published by Storey Publishing, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Soup Night.