kruizing with kikukat

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crock Pot Food: Beef Stew

Now that there is a definite nip in the air, I'm all psyched to cook hearty, cold weather food.  And there is nothing that screams "hearty" like beef stew.

Before I go on, let me get this off my chest:  I am not a huge fan of beef stew.  I am not kidding.   Yes, I grew up in Hawaii.  Yes, beef stew is served at practically every self-respecting "local" restaurant.  Yes, it was served in my house growing up.  Yet, I am not a big fan.

So why would someone who is clearly not a fan of beef stew be dedicating a precious weekly post to the unofficial most popular home-cooked meal in Hawaii?  Its because the majority of people I share my house with are huge fans.

My dislike for stew goes back years decades.  I remember my mom making it.  I remember my grandma going to the emergency room because she nearly sliced her index finger off while trying to cut out all the fat from pieces of stew meat.  I even remember my older cousin trying to force me to eat a bowl of it, indignantly telling me after the 3rd time I declined, "My mother made it."  I still didn't eat it.

The stew I grew up with was rather thin, and it didn't have much color.  The meat chunks tended to be large and fatty.  The vegetables were huge and it seemed to be more liquid that chunks.  Maybe that explains why stew seemed like it lasted forever, another demerit for stew.  We weren't poor, so it beats the crap outta me why my parents HAD to make a huge pot of stew every time.  Kikukat Mom did not make stew with any tomato base either.  It was "brown" or "natural", as Kikukat Dad once called it.  I can't remember what kind of stew my grandma made...main thing it didn't contain any finger bits! 

When I was living on my own in Honolulu (when I started working), I decided to have another go at stew.  I bought one of those packet mixes and followed the directions.  It was horrible...there was some spice in there that I found irritating.  I even tried some stew special at Zippy's.  It was nasty too.  I decided to avoid making/eating stew.  This worked out okay because Mr. Dependable didn't like stew either!

And then the Ds came along.  Having dinner at my parents' house, they both ate "stool soup" and would come home raving.  Ugh.  I was actually impressed at how fitting the term "stool soup" was for it because that's what I was thinking for years.  And one day, the unthinkable happened.  Someone bought me dinner from Cafe 100. . .and it was beef stew!!!  I can't remember the exact situation, but I was forced to eat it, and thats when things began to look a little brighter.

Cafe 100 beef stew has a tomato base.  Eating it, I realized that stew tastes pretty decent when eaten with a scoop of potato salad.  I also noticed that there were pieces of meat and vegetables enrobed in a hearty sauce (not thin and watery).  Turned out that the Ds weren't picky...they loved tomato-based stew too.

Since then, I've actually gone back to making and (sometimes) eating beef stew.  I've even made it for parties, as I've come to realize that some of my uncles love beef stew (one of them goes there weekly to get it).  I've made it in a pressure cooker for a quick meal (must have a fat separator), and most recently, I made it in the crock pot.  The crock pot method works best if you have enough forethought to make it a day before you plan to eat it.  Chilling the mixture before reheating the next day will allow you to remove the hardened fat.  The best part about crock pot stew is that the meat does not require browning prior to cooking.

My parents still make the same stew I grew up eating, and I still decline (politely) when they offer some to me.  But now, I make my own stew and offer it to them (and they always accept).  The Ds both boldly proclaim "grandma makes the best stew".  I suppose I should prepare myself for the day one of the Ds offers me some"natural" stew.  Blecchhhhh.

What kind of stew did you grow up eating?
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 lbs beef stew meat
     1 large onion, diced
     1 c celery, sliced
     2 large carrots, cut in 1" chunks
     4 potatoes, cut in 1 1/2" chunks
     3 tbsp minute tapioca
     1 tbsp sugar
     2 1/2 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp pepper
     1 can tomato soup combined with 2 c water

In a 5 quart crock pot, layer ingredients in the above order.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Refrigerate overnight.  Spoon off hardened fat.  Reheat on high for 2 hours, stirring after 20 minutes.

Way to go, Vikings!

First football victory (that I know of. . .and I will be the first to admit I don't know a whole lot about high school football) over the Kealakehe Waveriders!  The final score of this defensive brawl . . . 6-3.
And what great timing. . .Homecoming!

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