photo by Kelly Yandell
Back in the 1930s, some cattlemen sponsored a contest among cowboys for their favorite stew recipes. The winning entry was called “Stew Without Them Dadgum Carrots.” This is a different stew, our personal favorite. With apologies to that cowboy, it does contain those contrary carrots.
8 hearty servings
4 slices slab bacon, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground dried red chile powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 ½ pounds sirloin, cut in ½ to ¾ inch cubes
2 cups chopped onions
3 cups beer
2 cups unsalted beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsulphured dark molasses
1 ½ cups pearl onions, peeled
6 carrots, cut into thick chunks
2 medium baking potatoes, cut into chunks, placed in water to prevent discoloration
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Fry the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until the bacon is crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon, drain it and set it aside. Keep the bacon drippings warm in the skillet.
While the bacon is cooking, combine the flour, ground chile, salt, mustard, cumin, cayenne and black pepper in a medium plastic or paper bag. In batches, add the sirloin to the seasoned flour mixture and shake to coat each cube.
Turn the heat under the skillet to medium-high. In batches, add the sirloin cubes and brown them. Don’t overcrowd the meat or it won’t brown properly. (If pan begins drying out, add a small amount of canola oil to prevent sticking.)
With the slotted spoon, transfer the sirloin to a stockpot, Dutch oven or four-quart ovenproof pan. Add the chopped onions to the skillet and sauté them in the remaining bacon grease until they are soft. If the mixture is dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water, being sure to scrape up all the browned bits remaining in the skillet. Transfer the onion to the stockpot or pan. Pour the beer and stock over the meat, add the tomato paste and molasses and stir well.
Place the stew in the oven and bake it for about 1½ hours. Add the remaining onion, the carrots and the potatoes. Bake the stew 1½ hours longer (another 15 minutes won’t hurt it, if you’re busy). At the end of the baking time, the liquid should have reduced to a light sauce. If it remains thinner than you prefer, heat the pan or dish on the stove over medium high heat to thicken it. Add the reserved bacon and more salt if needed. You can eat the stew immediately, but it will develop more flavor if you chill it overnight.
Reheat it before serving.
from Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison, The Harvard Common Press, Copyright 1993.