Stressful few days, needin' comfort food, that would mean I cooked tonight. Tam helped, seein' as how she enjoys food, too.
Beef stew, almost from scratch, starting with fake (or at least nearly-foolproof) roux:
You'll need 3 or 4 strips of good bacon, a pound of stew beef, a medium onion, a potato, one package of fresh mushrooms (I used portabellas but go with what you find) and a half-cup or so of carrots, all cut into half-inch-ish chunks; a half-cup or so of celery (sliced 1/4" thick or less); about 1/3 cup of flour, two cans of Campbell's condensed Beef Consomme, some red wine if desired (I prefer a Chianti; Gabbiano is nice), a small paper bag of the "lunch sack" size and spices as listed below.
Please know that I don't bother measuring any of this when I'm cooking. When I give measurements, take them as more of a suggestion. Food's supposed to be tasty, not a lab formula, so follow your tastebuds and imagination!
Start the bacon frying in your stew pot (shame on you if you haven't got one -- go buy one today; stainless or enamelware will do) . While it's going, cut the stew beef if needed and mix the flour, a tiny bit of salt (there's plenty in the broth) or rather more Cajun seasoning and black pepper (fresh-ground is best) in the paper bag. Drop about half the stew meat in the paper bag, give it a few good shakes, take it out and do the remainder. The bacon should be about crisp, so set it aside to drain on paper towel and drop the floured meat into the hot bacon fat and brown well. It's okay if a little extra flour comes along, but don't add too much; the meat will haul along about enough. (There will be some flour left in the bag. Toss it; it's cheap). Brown the meat well on all sides and once that's done, add the onion, carrots and mushroom and saute a bit, then toss in the celery, saute a little more (you're looking for the onion to be getting transparent) and add a splash of red wine -- maybe a quarter or third of a cup or so -- and kind of scrape the good stuff up from the bottom of the pot. (Yes, "deglazing." Oooo).
The flour won't stick to the meat much in the final result. It's just a sneaky way to do a brown roux that's difficult to get wrong.
Now add a can of consomme, not too fast, stirring as you do. Add about half a soup can of water and then the potato. Add the other can of consomme and enough water to cover. If desired, break up the bacon set aside early on and add it, too. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover partially, and leave to simmer for at least twenty minutes. (Sort of "reducing." More ooo). It's done when the potatoes are soft. The broth will not be as heavy as store-bought stew but it will taste a lot better.
Serve with bread, flatbread or biscuits and butter. Home-made yum! (Tam agrees).
You can add other things to this basic start. Root vegetables work nicely but canned tomatoes, corn and/or beans will take it in a more soup-like direction. A hint of cabbage helps almost any soup, btw. Refrigerate leftovers for the next day -- a night in the fridge often improves a quick stew.
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