Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Beef Stew - For Bill

Adapted from Beat That! by Ann Hodgman

Serves 6

I avoided posting this recipe for a long time because it’s embarrassing to give you a recipe that includes a can of soup. But this is a good, handy recipe to have, and it really works just the way it is. According to Ann Hodgman, obvious substitutions, such as tomatoes or tomato sauce, do not, so don’t try them. Either make it as is or forget it.

The original recipe was in Beat This!, and it called for Campbell’s Tomato Bisque.
I thought Tomato Bisque had been discontinued, but on December 16, 2008, I called Campbell's, and was told I was wrong. I was even given the names of the stores in New York City that carried it.

Now that Tomato Bisque is no longer on the shelves, you have to use the ubiquitous Campbell’s Tomato Soup, which does work fine, and that is what is used in the recipe in Beat That! M.F.K. Fisher drank it out of a special little pitcher as one of her secret comfort foods ("The Midnight Egg and Other Revivers," Bon Appetit May 1978 ). And I'm sure most of us have eaten it alongside a grilled cheese sandwich a time or two with no apologies. 

This is not elegant food, but it is, after all, beef stew, and a good dinner t
o have during the winter when you want to eat at home and don’t have time to make a big production out of cooking. My friend Debbie’s husband Randy likes it so much, she can wheedle him into trying anything by telling him it’s a recipe from me – even if it isn’t!

Ann Hodgman says that adding chopped mushrooms to the recipe would probably be a good idea, and I think so too even though I have never tried it. I also think it would be good to sauté thick slices of mushrooms, sprinkle them with chopped fresh parsley, and serve them on top of the stew, but that might be more trouble than you want to go to if you're making this for dinner to begin with.

Beef Stew

Adapted from Beat That! by Ann Hodgman

2 pounds beef stew meat in cubes, London broil works well here, believe it or not
6 carrots cut into thick slices
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
1 large baking potato, cut into stew-size dice (I use russet, but Yukon Gold should work)
1 bay leaf (I use Morton & Basset brand)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed between your fingers as you add them to the bowl
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 10-ounce can Campbell’s Tomato Soup
½ can red wine

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Combine the beef, carrots, onions, potato, and bay leaf in a large bowl. Sprinkle the seasonings in, and mix well. In a small bowl, combine the soup with the red wine and pour over the stew ingredients. Mix well.

Put everything into a lidded casserole or pot that can go into a 275-degree oven. Cover the casserole or pot first with a tight layer of foil and then with the lid.

Bake the stew for 5 hours. After the first 2 hours, check it every half hour or so to make sure there’s enough liquid left in the pot. There probably will be. Remove the bay leaf before serving.  Leftovers reheat well, but you may have to add a little liquid.

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