We had a major cold snap here a few weeks ago. Mock my thin, sensitive South Florida blood if you must, but my beloved plants that I have somehow managed to keep alive for over eight months died in a freeze one night. Very sad. However, it was a nice opportunity to make the following recipe and not sweat while eating it. Hoorah.
This is my mother’s recipe, so if you’d like to know more specific origins, you’ll just have to track her down. It’s super simple, super hearty, and it freezes (or refrigerates) and re-heats absolutely beautifully. I always make a double batch and freeze the rest, since I am secretly a stay-at-home mom in the 80′s. Also, while it was always served with dinner rolls in my mother’s house, we all know how dealing with yeast makes me clutch my pearls. So I serve it with rosemary flatbread instead, and it is a delightful substitute, if I do say so myself.
If you choose to double the amounts (which serves about a million hungry mouths) and go for the crock pot, reduce the liquid by a cup – technically two cups since we’re doubling. I had to alter the amount of liquids because my crock pot spits gravy (now how’s that for a fine mental image) when overfilled with the original amounts. Eat up!
1 lb stew beef (cut it into bite-size pieces before cooking)
3 cups hot water
1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (browning aid – you’ll find it near the stock and boullion – usually the soup aisle – at your grocery store)
1 beef bullion cube (keeps forever if it seems like a weird thing to buy; ditto, Kitchen Bouquet)
3-4 potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 onion, diced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons dry tapioca beads
Brown the beef in a large pot (if you have one, use a dutch oven or other stove-and-oven-safe pot) over medium-high heat. We’re don’t need it to be cooked through and through since it’ll cook for several hours more, we just want some nice color and fat renderings in the pan. Add all of the ingredients EXCEPT the tapioca beads and bring it all to a boil, and make sure you season the whole mess with plenty of salt and pepper. Now stir in the tapioca. It’ll thicken things up over the lengthy cooking time. I know it seems weird. Now either transfer everything to your crock pot on high heat, or to a 25o degree oven, depending on the versatility of your cookware. Let it be for 5 hours, stirring occasionally, although if you’re doing the crock pot scene, and you leave it unattended for a while, it’ll be just fine. My mother’s recipe literally ends with “makes a delicious brown gravy” and it’s true. This is good, cheap eating at its finest. Enjoy!