Fall is here and so too is my mom’s brown stew. The seasons are like that, reminding me of foods I may not have considered since the year before. Days on the calendar pass, weather turns from warm to cool, and with it recipes from previous seasons are revisited.
The last of the tomatoes may be harvested, but lucky for me potatoes and onions are still waiting to be pulled from the garden, and I’m finding a recent shipment of pasture raised, grass fed beef from Acabonac Farms in my freezer. So, stew it is! Shorter, cooler days remind me of all the other fall days ending in the rich, earth flavors of my mom’s brown stew.
It was always a recipe she would start in the midst of a wood stacking day, or another day filled with chores in preparation for winter. She’d scrub up the potatoes and carrots, but only after browning the meat in a little fat and flour and letting it simmer a while in a bath of warm spices and bay leaves. My brother and I would come in with red noses but warm bodies ready for a biscuit and a cup of stew, making me happy in a way not much else can.
MOM’S BROWN STEW (as given to her by her sister Cecile)
What You Need
- 2 lbs stew meat
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (or another fat of choice)
- 4 cups boiling water (though I always substitute a cup or so of water for red wine, so then 3 cups boiling water and 1 cup wine)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 – 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- Dash allspice and cloves
- 5 to 7 large carrots
- 4 to 6 potatoes (or more of both – I like it chock full of veggies)
What You Do
- Flour then brown meat in olive oil in a thick bottomed pot — about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add boiling water, wine if you’re using it, lemon juice, spices, etc. (everything but the potatoes and carrots).
- Cover and simmer a total of 2 hours but set your timer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- After one hour has passed, reset your timer for an additional hour, then chop carrots lengthwise and throw them in, mixing well so they begin simmering with the other ingredients.
- Next chop potatoes and add them to the mix (I find it’s best to quarter potatoes and leave them larger than bite size).
- Cover with a lid, leaving it slightly ajar for the smallest amount of steam to escape, and simmer on low heat.
- Stir occasionally to prevent the the mixture from sticking to the bottom of your pot.
- Stew is ready when meat and veggies are soft. After about 2 hours.
Serve warm with rosemary biscuits and a hardy green salad topped with shaved apple and pomegranate seeds or another combination of your choice. Red wine optional.
Serves 6 to 8.
There are 3 things that make this stew wonderful. First, browning the stew meat in flour. This makes the stew thick and rich. Second, the smell that fills the house after 20 minutes or so of cooking. And finally, great ingredients. Any dish is far better when made with the very best ingredients, and they don’t have to be complex to be amazing. Homegrown is primo, but locally grown, freshly harvested veggies are often just as good. The same goes with meat. In fact, in my mind it’s most important to get this part right.
In my family, we live mostly vegetarian lives. This is due in part for health and moral reasons and, in large part, because of the huge toll global meat production has on the environment. The use of antibiotics and feed lots being two of the biggest culprits, plus the raising of livestock is resource heavy, using 1/3 of the world’s fresh water. So, in my home when we’re craving something protein rich, we’re incredibly picky. Which is why we’ve turned to a family owned farm like Acabonac Farms where they’re raising small batch, well-loved, grass fed beef. It’s more nutritious than beef raised on a feed lot diet, and they manage pastures for soil health and its natural, CO2 sequestering properties.
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Acabonac Farms raises pasture finished beef on the East End of Long Island and they’ve launched a neat, CSA style delivery service so you can get better-for-you (and better-for-the-word) beef shipped to your door. Cool idea, right? Learn more about Acabonac Farms here.
*Note: this article is not sponsored.