Introduction: Hearty Beef Stew

We had a recipe for beef stew, but it was rather ordinary. I thought I could improve on it. I have made it for a number of people and all of them like it very much. 

Step 1: First Ingredients

Prepare and place into a 2.5 quart crock pot the following ingredients--
  • 2 pounds of stew meat (beef) cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 pound of beef stick summer sausage sliced and quartered
  • 2 medium onions cut into eighths
  • 4 medium carrots in thick slices
  • 2 stalks of celery sliced diagonally
  • 1 can of kernel corn (10 to 12 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup of quick-cooking tapioca
  • 3 or 4 medium potatoes quartered and sliced

I added part of each of these in a continuous rotation so they are already mixed as I place them into the crock pot. Press these down into the crock pot to make room for the lid, if necessary. Normally I peel the potatoes, but decided to leave the skin on this time. The skins are supposed to contain good nutrients.

Remember that this is stew, and you can use whatever you have. Add something extra that is not in the recipe, if you like. If you do not have some ingredient or find it difficult to get, do not worry. Stew ingredients can be flexible.

Step 2: Spices, Etc.

Mix these together in a bowl so they blend well. Then add them to the crock pot.
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt (maximum--less if you are restricting sodium in your diet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of bourbon whiskey
  • 10 to 12 ounces of tomato sauce
If there is space in the crock pot, extra potatoes may be added. If you wish, you may also add water to make more liquid, but some additional liquid will appear during cooking, too.

Step 3: Start the Cooking

I needed an hour to prepare everything before I was ready to start the stew cooking. This stew also needs 7 hours to cook. Plan ahead. 

Place the lid on the pot. Set the crock pot to "high" and let it cook.

Step 4: Stir During Cooking

About every hour lift the lid and stir the ingredients in the pot. The photo was taken about 30 minutes after cooking began. Some of the ingredients still feel cool to the touch.

Step 5: After 5 Hours

This is a photo of the stew after 5 hours of cooking on high. Bubbles are appearing and bursting open around the edge of the crock pot. No extra liquid has been added. The liquid in the pot is about the consistency of gravy. The stew could probably be eaten now, but the potatoes are still a little harder than I like. The stew meat is pretty well cooked already. More cooking will make everything softer and easier to chew. In the past I have usually cut the heat setting back from "high" to "low" after 3 hours and let the stew cook for an additional 4 hours. But, if you start this when you go to bed or when you leave for work in the morning; there is no harm in letting it cook all day on "high." I do like to stir the stew while it cooks, but that is probably not critical, either. 

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

After 7 hours of cooking on "high" the meat was tender like a roast that falls off of the bone and the potatoes were soft enough to cut easily with a spoon.

When the stew cooled enough not to burn my mouth, I ate it with whole wheat bread. Rye bread is preferred for a great taste combination. Milk makes a good beverage with it. I am having a can of diet cola. The stew was very, very tasty; and it has vegetables in it, too.

A great follow-up is a dessert of hot fudge pudding cake. Rather than describe how to make that, I will simply link to someone else's Instructable on it. That Instructable uses the same recipe I have.

This is a great meal for a cold winter night. I am making it to feed myself while my wife is out of town for a few days. I will refrigerate it, and then heat an individual portion for various mealtimes.

Comments

author
gmessenger (author)2013-12-24

Mmmmmmm, I love a chunky home made beef stew! I think I will make one for the kids and I for supper later this week :-)

author
Phil B (author)gmessenger2013-12-24

I hope you enjoy it.

author
coolbeansbaby68 (author)2012-08-29

Yummy comfort food !

author
karossii (author)2011-06-04

Never heard of putting tapioca in a stew before; what is its purpose... as a thickener of the sauce? Does it affect flavor much? Is there a specific type of tapioca you use?

author
Phil B (author)karossii2011-06-04

The tapioca was part of the original recipe, not one of my alterations. I suspect it serves as a thickener. I did not notice any taste from it. There are a number of more powerful and quite different flavors so that the tapioca would not be noticed. We had Kraft Minute Tapioca in the cupboard and that is what I used. Thank you for your comment.

author
kill-a-watt (author)Phil B2011-06-04

I would agree about the thicker part. In fact, I have some powdered tapioca I got from an international grocery for my sister. She likes to use it to thicken pie filling made from scratch. This saves her the effort of grinding the tapioca pearls down into powder herself.

I would assume you use less if you had powder to achieve the same mouth-feel. Some experimentation is in order, I think.

author
Phil B (author)kill-a-watt2011-06-05

The Kraft tapioca product I mentioned consists of granules no more than 1/16 of an inch in diameter. I do not cook a lot, but am more accustomed to hearing about corn starch as a thickener. It is probably a good thing to have a thickener so the liquids are like gravy when finished, and not so thin they run all over. I would usually eat this stew on a dinner plate. This time I decided to eat it in a soup bowl with a spoon. It could go either way, depending on your preferences.

author
kill-a-watt (author)Phil B2011-06-06

OK, never mind what I said about using less of the powder. I didn't understand that the tapioca pearls cook down to nothing in the slow cooker.

I made the recipe with some substitutions for what I had on hand:

Meatballs instead of beef
omit potatoes (unfortunately this is the wrong type of carb for me)
Add more celery and carrots
use1/2 cup of frozen succotash instead of the canned corn (quite a bit less corn in the mix)
No summer sausage (next time for sure)
4oz of sherry instead of the bourbon

I had both the tapioca pearls and powder on hand and tried the pearls. They had dissolved within two hours.  The stew turned out really well. Google says that tapioca is a better thicker to use when freezing, and since I'm all about "plan-overs" (deliberately planning on making extra, and freezing the leftovers) this should work out well.

author
Phil B (author)kill-a-watt2011-06-06

Thank you for trying it and for the report back. You made enough changes to what I did that it really is your own.

author
kill-a-watt (author)Phil B2011-06-08

You are too kind. I go by the "Ann Hodgman's rule" of giving recipe credit. To claim a recipe as your own, you need to make three major changes. You can't just add an extra half a teaspoon of salt and call that a change, you need to add an extra half cup!

So under that rule, I could:

Swap the stew beef for ground rabbit meatballs (rabbit, the other other white meat!)
Add a totally new vegetable, like rutabaga.
And then change the whiskey to sherry and call it a totally new recipe.

Also, I have a recipe for beef satays that uses whiskey to tenderize. I would suggest if the beef you use isn't totally tender after all of that slow cooking, then you could marinate the beef overnight in the whiskey first, and then add everything to the crockpot when you start to cook.

The first batch never made it to the freezer, because I ate it all for lunch and dinner (doing roofing work makes you pretty hungry), so I'm trying again. The only appropriate spirit in the house is my favorite rye, and I'm not  willing to try that so today I used a bottle of stout. I also switched up to hamburger patties (easier to pre-brown) and threw in a small handful of frozen shoestring french-fries. 

Burger and Fries Stew anyone?

author
Phil B (author)kill-a-watt2011-06-08

I like the three ingredient rule. I also have a great respect for roofers. To me it seems roofers are working in unfavorable weather conditions most days of the year.

author
kill-a-watt (author)Phil B2011-06-08

just some roofing on my own house. If I was a roofer every month of the year I would not have to worry about carbs!

author
karossii (author)Phil B2011-06-05

I do usually add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch (pre-dissolved in an equal amount of cold water) to a stew when I start it... never tried (or heard of anyone else using) tapioca instead. Will have to give it a go!

author
NaturalCrafter (author)2011-06-06

I believe the bourbon helps to tenderize the meat. It is sometimes good to take the meat and let it sit in that or wine the night before. Some people add the onions fresh or lightly browned. I have never used tapioca for a thickener other than adding it to a Hawaiian salad. Stew is always great and I like your combination. (Making note card for my box) Thanks for sharing.

author
Phil B (author)NaturalCrafter2011-06-06

Yesterday someone mentioned the bourbon as a possible tenderizing agent. The original recipe mentioned that the meat may be marinated before cooking. I did trim some very hard fat from the stew meat, also some tough sinew. After 7 hours of slow cooking, it was very tender; so I do not know why marinating would be necessary. Again, thank you for looking.

author
NaturalCrafter (author)2011-06-06

Hungarian goulash is great with beer in it also. A creative cook made that up for dinner for us once...lol

author
Phil B (author)NaturalCrafter2011-06-06

I had the thought that adding sausage makes this stew a little like Hungarian goulash. What fascinates me is that a rather bland recipe for beef stew became something much more exciting by adding only a couple of ingredients. Are you the aforementioned creative cook? ;-) Thank you for commenting and for copying the recipe.

author
rimar2000 (author)2011-06-04

Phil B posting cooking recipes! The universe is changing...

Anyway, being yours, maybe I must try it.

author
Phil B (author)rimar20002011-06-04

If you do try it, do not worry about the bourbon whiskey. The alcohol boils away during the cooking. I do not know if you have something like summer sausage in Argentina or not. It is often sliced and served on crackers. It has a taste of black pepper and garlic. This stew is much more interesting than ordinary beef stew. I made it for a group of church ladies once. They liked it very much. Thanks, Osvaldo.

author
rimar2000 (author)Phil B2011-06-05

Thanks, Phil. I don't know that summer sausages. There are "chorizo colorado" (red sausage) with [paprika - cayenne] but surely they are different. Also "salamines" (salami), maybe they are more similar.

Anyway, my cooking skills go a bit over fried eggs...

author
Phil B (author)rimar20002011-06-05

Osvaldo,

Summer sausage is probably more similar to salami than to chorizo. You could use any sausage you like to add a little flavor. The summer sausage is pre-cooked and ready to eat cold. But, the crock pot I used for cooking cooked the raw stew meat. It would also cook raw sausage so that it is safe to eat. If you can fry an egg, you can make this stew.

author
kill-a-watt (author)2011-06-04

Looks good. The bourbon is your secret ingredient. I'll have to try that.

My secret ingredient is to use condensed tomato soup. I don't know what it is, but it makes a very tasty stew.

The original recipe was from a book called "Beat This!". There is an adaptation of the recipe here at this URL by another author.  She uses red wine, but I usually add 12 oz of dark beer (original recipe called for "beer", wine or water, and I just have to assume that the original author used something awful like Bud lite).

I usually cook it in my cast iron dutch oven, but I take the lid off and add in one or two of those "biscuits in a tube" during the last 12 minutes or so, leaving the top off so they can cook and brown in the oven.

author
Phil B (author)kill-a-watt2011-06-04

I know some people who like Dutch oven cooking very much. I understand about the biscuits. I do not have a Dutch over kettle and have not tried that.

The bourbon is one of the "secrets." I believe the summer sausage is another, as well as the garlic powder.

We frequently go to a Mongolian BBQ. I like to be sure to add the red cooking wine sauce.

Thank you for looking and for commenting.

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