Thursday, March 16, 2017
Let's Call It Irish Stew
My mother called her beef stew "Irish stew." It was a big pot of stew beef cooked with potatoes, carrots and onions. If you google Irish stew, you'll find a multitude of recipes, some with lamb, some with mutton, US versions with beef, some with carrots and some without, and on and on and on. I'm not sure what makes a stew an authentic Irish stew. And Google didn't tell me for sure. I only know that's what my mother called hers when we were growing up.
This was in the day before slow cookers, so hers simmered a long time on the stove top, long enough for the beef to be tender. She would sometimes make it for us on St. Patrick's Day so that we would have an "Irish" meal. I like to use the slow cooker so that I can put it together in the morning and forget about it until dinner.
Here is a new-to-me recipe for slow cooker beef stew that I made last week. And since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, we'll call this one "Irish stew," at least for a day.
I have made so many versions of beef stew over the years. And I don't remember any of them as a bad recipe. But I will admit that I had my doubts about this one because there are virtually no seasonings added to this. No Worcestershire sauce. No herbs. Just salt and pepper and sugar. (Sugar? Where did that come from?) But it was nearly perfect. Daddy-O said, "Sometimes simple is best."
So why did I make it when I wasn't sure about it? Well, I had nearly a whole bottle of tomato juice left from the cabbage casserole I had made the week before. This was a good way to use it up. And I needed a slow cooker meal on a day when my afternoon calendar was full.
Tapioca was also a questionable ingredient as far as I was concerned. It is not a staple ingredient in my pantry. I walked the entire a grocery store a couple of times looking for it. I looked with the baking ingredients. I looked with cereals. (I obviously don't know much about tapioca.) But when I ran into a friend I had not seen in ages, we chatted a minute then she said, "I need to let you go." And I replied, "Yes, I'm on a search for tapioca", a store manager, who was crouched near us adding prices to a new display, piped up, "Aisle 7. Near the Jello."
And I still had trouble seeing it. Top shelf. Single row of red boxes. And it turned out to be the perfect way to thicken the stew. Thick enough, but not too thick. (Later, at my closer-to-home Bilo store, I spied it down on the bottom shelf.)
This very simple stew was as good as any recipe that I've ever used. It makes a huge amount, especially when there are only two of us here. So I put some of the stew—minus the potatoes—into the freezer. I have not had much luck freezing cooked potatoes. They get a mealy texture. So I fish those out of the part that goes into the freezer. Since the potatoes are in large chunks, that's not hard to do.
I used red potatoes, well scrubbed, and left the skins on. And we served this over brown rice. Comfort food to the max.
SIMPLE BEEF STEW
2 lbs stew beef (I used about 2-1/2 lbs)
3 cups cut up potatoes (large chunks)
2-3 large carrots, sliced thick
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup instant tapioca (also called Minute tapioca)
3-4 cups tomato juice
Put stew beef, potatoes, carrots and onions into a 6-quart slow cooker and. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, sugar and tapioca and mix. Pour juice over all. Cook on LOW for about 9 hours. (To help the carrots cook more evenly, I cut the fat part thinner and the tapered end into longer sections.)
Add a salad to your dinner and maybe some fruit for dessert and you'll have a meal that's good and good for you.