Fire Burn & Cauldron Bubble

As it turns out, unbeknownst to each other, Laura and I went on a stew-cooking bender this weekend. Exactly as she said, it’s starting to be stew weather around here. When it starts to get cold, I start thinking of making a big ol’ stew like my dad and my grandmother used to do.

It helps when I’m expecting company, like a few weeks ago when my in-laws were supposed to be coming to visit. My family recipe is aimed at feeding an extended family gathering of 12-15 or so. There’s only me, Dys, and my son at home. And he doesn’t eat this (yet). So making it without others around means a long week of leftovers for yours truly. Which isn’t a horrible thing, but still.

So when my in-laws were inbound, I mentioned the stew to Dys and she lit up. (I’m sure the “TB cooking? And enough leftovers for four or five days? No cooking for me for almost a week? Where do I sign up??” had nothing to do with it.) So I went out and bought all of the ingredients. Then we got sick as dogs and the in-laws cancelled their trip. But the ingredients were still there, and the idea was still in our heads, and the weather was right. So this weekend I went ahead and made the stew anyway. So guess what I had for lunch yesterday? And dinner? And lunch today? And probably dinner tonight? And…well, you get the picture.

Anyway, this is basically a form of what’s called Brunswick Stew down South. Where I come from, if you just say “stew” this is pretty much what people will expect. The particular recipe comes to me from my dad, who used to help cook these things in huge iron pots over an open flame (complete with guys stirring it with paddles) for fund-raisers for his Masonic lodge and his Ruritan club. His mom regularly made a stew as well, and ol’ Dad sort of bastardized all of the above recipes and handed it down to me. I bastardized it a bit more, halving the onions as per Dys’s request…and I admittedly like it better that way.

For the record, Granny used to use a whole chicken. Gizzards and all. Which made for a funny face the first time Dys ever tried it. “This is really good. What’s that funny taste? Reminds me of liver or something.” “Well, there’s gizzards in it.” “What?!?” Dad uses frozen breasts for convenience, and so you don’t have to look for bones in the stew. (Common problem with the big-pot version, which takes multiple whole chickens.)

Anyway, enough backstory. Time for:

***

Ye Olde TB Family Stew Recipe

1 12-qt stock pot

5 lbs potatoes
1 large yellow onion
3 frozen chicken breasts
1 ½ pounds stew beef
1 16-oz bag frozen baby lima beans
1 can whole kernel yellow corn
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 46-oz can of tomato juice (not unsalted)
1 stick butter or margarine

Wash & peel potatoes, cut into medium-sized chunks. I usually vary the size of the chunks a bit – some to boil down, and some to remain in the stew. Put into stock pot, cover with about two inches of water. Put on High to boil. Add 1 tsp each salt & pepper.

Chop one large yellow onion. Add to pot. When the pot gets to a rolling boil, turn heat down to 8.

In a separate pot (I use a dutch oven pot), boil 3 frozen chicken breasts. Add 1 tsp each salt & pepper to the chicken. When the chicken is done, put it aside on a plate to cool. Pour the chicken broth into the stew pot. Cut up the cooked chicken into small pieces. Add to the stew pot.

Cut up stew beef into small pieces. Add to the pot. Add lima beans. Turn heat down to 6 or 7.

Boil pot, stirring occasionally, until the level is about 4-5″ from the top of the pot. At that point, add the corn, tomato juice, sugar, and butter/margarine. The stew will turn a reddish orange.

Boil pot for an additional hour, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom. The resulting stew should be quite thick and medium orange in color.

***

That’s it. From start to finish it’ll probably take 2-3 hours, so don’t start it at 11am if you want lunch at noon! You’ll end up with probably 2 gallons of stew, so invite some people over or plan on lots of leftovers. I think I’ve got all the ingredients right; if not, I’ll correct tonight or tomorrow when I can compare to my beat-up sheet of composition book paper back home.

Dad wasn’t a big one for measuring, so he just tossed stuff like salt and pepper into the pot until it looked right, then guessed at the quantity afterward. I suck at looking at a pile of pepper in a vat of liquid and judging how much is there. So my first solo attempt, I went by Dad’s guess and put in 2 tablespoons each of salt & pepper instead of 1 teaspoon each. It was way too salty, but in my opinion, just right on the pepper. But I’ve continued to make it with less pepper, knowing you can always add more later to taste. I add lots of pepper; Dys adds just a little.

It also goes well with several hot sauces. My dad’s an aficionado of Texas Pete hot sauce, and since that’s fairly mild you can gob quite a bit on there and it tastes quite good. We lost our Texas Pete when the power went out earlier this year (it was in the fridge, and almost all of that got thrown out), but I did have some Tabasco handy. A few dabs of that was good!

Hope y’all enjoy it. I think Dad would be happy to know I shared the recipe, but I’m not so sure about Granny.

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7 Responses

  1. That sounds really good! I’ll try making it your way next time – I usually make two or three batches of stew throughout the course of what passes for winter around here. Thanks!

    Yours sounded good too…mmm beef and mushrooms.

  2. That sounds gorgeous, and I will try it out at the earliest opportunity! Stew here means Irish stew- everything else is known as a casserole…

    Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

    So, what’s in an Irish stew?

    To me, a “casserole” is something that isn’t liquid. That is, it may have several ingredients, but you eat it with a fork instead of a spoon. Anybody care to back me up?

  3. Ahhh…gizzards.

    Gross, once I actually learned what they were…can’t touch them anymore and they should probably be illegal to consume.

    I’d been eating them for years before I ever stopped to think about it, honestly.

    I have to admit, that is one straaaaange organ.

  4. Yummy! I’ve never had stew with chicken AND beef!

    I was probably 15 before I ever had stew WITHOUT both. 😉

  5. I’m going to have to try this. Usually cold weather equals chili for us. I got the basics for a chili recipe from my mom, but every time one of us makes chili it keeps changing. We’ll add something or forget something. I love ever changing recipes!

    I should really ask Dys’s dad for his chili recipe. It’s awesome. But I think one of the main ingredients that Dys avows is irreplaceable is a particular brand of beans that can only be found in the Midwest. We’d have to stock up.

  6. This is truly a fantastic addition to anyone’s winter arsenal. 🙂

    My dad loves fried gizzards. My opinion is that it’s much like eating rubber bands. With rocks in them. Regurgitated rocks at that.

    I guess I hadn’t thought about it before in this sense, but I hope it really says something for how TB’s Granny feels about me (or maybe it’s about him) that when she found out about my utter aversion to gizzards — because literally, I put the bowl down when I found out and that was it — she made a special batch with no gizzards, just for me. Even if I am a Yankee.

    For the record, my people got here in about 1912, but they settled north of the Mason-Dixon and that would be the salient detail.

    A couple of notes on the recipe:

    ~~The onion can be a killer, damn. Great for flavor, but rough on the gut. Know your audience is all I’m saying.

    ~~Also of the opinion that you could go a little heavier on the potatoes if you’re a tater type. Heartily second the varying sizes with both small and medium to thicken it up and still have some nice tater chunks in there.

    ~~I used to pepper the hell out of my bowl because I am a Black Pepper Junkie, but really, the flavor is so good by itself.

    ~~I can’t believe he left out the accompanying saltine crackers and/or bread and butter. He sops the liquid with plain bread if it isn’t good and thick yet. I’ve been known thicken with crushed saltines to the able to eat with a fork stage.

    ~~Extra stew also freezes beautifully in gallon ziplock bags and is a cinch to thaw and heat up later. Tip: To transfer leftovers to bags or bowls, use a 2-cup measuring cup to scoop and pour!

    Yep, I think Granny likes you. I think it was when you told her you taught Sunday School…maybe she thinks you’re her last hope for saving me. 😉

    Note to everybody else: Dys’s pointers on the recipe are excellent.

  7. I am SO cooking this on Saturdy! 😀

    Thanks for the pointers, Dys- your gizzard comments made me laugh! I can’t imagine anything that sounds less appealing! 😛

    Good luck with it on Saturday! And yes, gizzards are pretty damned unappealing, any way you look at ’em.

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