Hey look at me I’m John Chow! Well, ghetto style. So today it’s all about beef stew. Recently it got cold in Chicago. Do I need to follow that statement with anything? I mean, don’t we have a strong enough rep that “cold” as defined in this town really has no equal in any location that doesn’t also have penguins, Inuit, and polar bears (actually we do have “polar bears”). Last year I was buying my stew from Manny’s down on Jefferson and Roosevelt.
So OK, beef stew. I love it. Really I do. And as a man, I don’t know, it seems kinda like a “manly” thing to be able to make. But then again, I guess with all the chef shows out now cooking has been shown to be competitive (and therefore manly). At any rate I also like and make all time pancakes, so I’ll both eat and cook whatever I want. However this is the first and possibly only time I’m actually engaging in recipe trading. Although it’s not really a recipe and I’m not really trading. I don’t know what the hell I’m saying-here’s how I make beef stew!
Basically I just get a bunch of stuff. Seriously I don’t have exact elements of each item. I look at how much pot space I have and then try to visualize how many ingredients would be too much and then get as much stuff as I can. In this case I bought a new cheap 13 quart pot, and that’s about the size of a milk crate (a little smaller) I already had a nice size pot. Because that’s what you need, 1 big 2 handle pot, 1 biggish 1 or 2 handle pot, and 1 skillet, 1 long and STRONG utensil like a big spoon (I didn’t have one so had a minor layer of burned stuff at the bottom of the pot when I was done).
In terms of food I got a bag of potatoes, about 4 tomatoes, a bag of celery, a bag of carrots, a pack of stew beef (although next time I might get 2), 2 bell peppers, about 3 or 4 onions (ended up not using one) and one pack of “stew mix.” Basically as I’m compiling stuff I’m thinking about how much of each thing I’d like in the final mix. And it had been a while since I had cooked this but its actually a pretty quick cooking once the cutting of the vegetables is done. I also cut down the meat chunks a little too.
In terms of the cooking it pretty much goes like this; I cook the hard stuff longer, the meat on its own, and everything else altogether. I try to keep the water to a minimum to get the best flavor from everything. So the way that works is the potatoes and carrots go into the big pot with as much water as they need about half an hour before everything else. The beef gets fried up using only salt and pepper. Depending on how soft you like your beef determines when you’ll add it to the final mix. But when I feel the carrots and potatoes are soft enough I add everything else. I’ll actually use some of the cooking water to dilute the pack of “stew mix.” If you try to add that pack of dust to the big pot of stuff it will end up in little brown lumps, but if you gradually pour it into a pot of very little water you get a nice soup that you can add to the big pot and it will evenly disperse.
The only other part of my process is making a pack of jiffy cornbread. One egg and milk. The milk you’ll need is so small that it’s easy to overdue it. So the way I do it is I add a little milk, mix, scrape out a place for the egg, add the egg, mix it in to the whole thing, then add more milk until it’s a nice batter. Cooks REALLY fast.
So what about the fire? Well, yes there was a fire I’ll admit it. I had some paper towels too close to the stove’s cooking eye and my beautiful stew aroma was replaced by burned paper and smoke. Anyway, here are some final stages of cooking-had to switch to the camera phone; long story…