Valley Bounty: Beef Stew

If we define “stew” as “vegetables and protein cooked together in liquid,” which I think is broad but accurate, then stew is one of the oldest recipes still in use by human beings; every global cuisine includes recipes for something we could identify as a stew. A simple dish called “pottage”, which included any vegetable, grain, and protein the cook could get their hands on, was a staple food of peasants and serfs in Europe in the Middle Ages and beyond, cooked in a large pot over an open fire for hours or even days—new ingredients were added as servings were taken out to keep the stew going. English colonists brought this loose recipe with them to settlements in New England, where ingredients native to the colonized land blended with the traditional recipe to create the New England stews (and eventually chowders and soups) many of us are familiar with today.

The recipe for beef stew I learned from my father is pretty simple: onions, garlic, and beef chuck roast (cut in bite-sized cubes) sautéed together briefly until the outside of the beef is brown, then simmered over low heat for two to four hours in beef stock (and my dad’s “secret ingredient”, one can of Guinness) along with diced carrot, parsley, a Bay leaf or two, salt, and pepper. I suggest roasting potatoes separately and combining when serving, for an added crispiness.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)