Is there a special meal, that when eaten, takes you straight back to your childhood?
For me, that meal is my Granny's Beef Stew. It's not a fancy meal. The ingredients are stew beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Basic and simple, but the feelings this meal gives me are much more complex. I remember sitting in her kitchen watching her serve up this stew to me. As a child I didn't really like meat much, but this stew... I loved. It was served hot on a cold day, warming me from the inside out. Today when I take a bite of this stew I'm taken back 20 years to her table.
When I married Shawn she put together a cookbook full of recipes she made me as a child growing up. Of all the recipes in the book, my family enjoys this one most. When I tell them I'm making stew Carter will ask, "Is it Granny's stew?" I never stray from the original recipe created in 1960. I want to do it just like she did.
While I'm cooking I imagine her chopping onions. Am I doing it like she did? Browning the meat in batches, peeling carrots and potatoes, and tending a simmering pot takes time, but with each step of the recipe I think about the many times she's done it for her family through the years.
As the stew bubbles away on the stove filling the house with the smell of true comfort food, I remember
the special moments I spent at her kitchen table. Even the task of washing dishes by hand doesn't bother me when I'm making beef stew. I take that time to think of the people I'll be serving. Will they know how much I care about them, because this recipe is truly a labor of love. It's reserved for people I hold dear and love the most.
I believe cooking for someone and sharing food is the best way to show you care. One day, when my kids get older I hope they don't just remember the stew I used to make. I hope they know the tradition behind the recipe and the love that goes into the preparation. I hope they let me teach them how to make it so they'll understand the love that has been passed down from generation to generation with each full bowl of beef stew.
Here's the recipe just as it appears in my cookbook.
Heirloom recipe handed down from : Norma Kay (my Granny)
Region of origin: Central Texas
Tradition: Winter evening meal
Origin date: 1960
Prep time: 3 hrs.
2 T. oil 2 lbs. cubed stew meat or chuck
2 large onions clove of garlic, chopped
4 cups boiling water 1 T. salt
1 T. lemon juice 1 t. sugar
1 t. Worchestershire sauce 1/2 t. each paprika and pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves
Heat oil in Dutch oven and brown meat slowly on all sides. Chop onions and add with other ingredients to meat. Simmer, covered, slowly, for at least 2 hours.
6 carrots, peeled and sliced, 3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed. Simmer stew another 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Now pour 1/2 cup cold water in jar and add 1/4 cup flour and shake. Push stew to one side and stir in flour mixture. Simmer a few minutes longer until thick. Serve with hot garlic bread or corn bread and salad.
Serves 6 to 8
My favorite picture of Granny and Grandpa.