Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: The Occasional Recipe: beef stew

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

The Occasional Recipe: beef stew

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It’s almost spring, the snowdrops are out, and our dinner thoughts should be turning to asparagus and lamb. And yet, here in Boston, there are plenty of days when hearty winter fare still feels like the right way to go. Maybe beef stew that’s been in the oven for hours, sending delicious smells through the house and making the kitchen warm.

Here’s an easy one that never fails. It’s from my late friend Dan Murphy, who served it in front of the fireplace with a warm, crusty baguette, a first course of green salad, and a dessert of homemade chocolate pudding. Perfect! He got it from a book called “Cooking from Quilt Country.”

2 lbs stew beef
3-4 potatoes
3-4 carrots
2 ribs celery
3 small onions
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
1/4 c. water
5 tbsp. minute tapioca
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Cut meat into bite-size pieces. Prepare vegetables, cut into about 1-inch pieces.
2. In large heavy roasting pan combine all ingredients except parsley.
3. Bake, covered, for 5 hours without stirring.
4. Add parsley just before serving.

Two notes. First, about the parsley. I have no doubt that it would be a tasty addition. But I have never failed to forget it. Just as I’m cleaning up after dinner I find that little mound of washed and chopped parsley, waiting eagerly for its close-up. (“Is it time now?”) Oh, well. I now consider it optional.

And most importantly, about the direction to bake for 5 hours “without stirring.” I have always taken this to mean both the stew and the cook. So put the stew in the oven and sit down with a good book. Maybe light a fire. After all, it’s only March.

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