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Cold weather, warm stew

Cat Campbell/For The Madera Tribune

Few things are as tasty and comforting as a hearty stew on a cold evening.


Many times, I write about what I am preparing for dinner that day, and this is no different. At the moment, I have a beef stew in one of my crock pots (I almost typed croak pots).

I am making a recipe called oven-baked stew, but most of the time I cook it in the crock pot, otherwise known as slow cooker. I used to always make beef stew in a pot on top of the stove, and always had to thicken the gravy to my liking. Then, when my kids were in elementary school, every year the sixth-grade class hosted a dinner play.

The menu was always the same, which was a hearty beef stew. Parents were given a shopping list and a recipe, then asked to please deliver the stew to the school cafeteria. Students who were not in the play would serve the guests.

I remember the time when most of the stews that came in barely had any meat in them, and some guests were letting the kitchen folks know in no uncertain terms. But anyway, I will share that recipe with you.

It makes a lot but you can do what I do (unless you are feeding a crowd) and cut it down to size. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving and are staying nice and warm.

Oven-baked beef stew

Basically, I only cut down on the amount of potatoes and carrots; the rest is the same.

5 pounds stew beef, cubed

10 pounds potatoes (I used about 5 very large gold potatoes), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 pounds carrots (I used 5 very large carrots), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 packet onion soup mix

1 can condensed golden mushroom soup

1 can condensed cream of celery soup

Small amount red wine (I use half a soup can, but that is in my reduced version)

About 3/4 to 1 soup can of water


Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic granules, to taste

Italian seasoning, to taste

2 tablespoons (or more as needed) vegetable oil

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 small to medium onion, chopped

1. In shallow bowl, mix about 2 cups flour, some garlic granules (about 1 teaspoon), black pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon or if using a pepper mill, about 20 good twists), about 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and about 2 teaspoons salt.

2. Dredge the beef pieces in the flour mixture, and brown them in a hot Dutch oven with about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the bottom. Work in batches, as you do not want to crowd the meat in the pot. Turn the meat chunks over once. When nicely browned (it doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through), transfer to either a crock pot or a deep oven-safe dish that will hold the entire stew.

3. Saute the chopped onions and green pepper in the Dutch oven, stirring often until starting to brown around edges. Transfer to pot where the meat is.

4. Add potatoes and carrots, mixing a bit. In a medium bowl, combine the golden mushroom and cream of celery soups, onion soup packet, about half a soup can of red wine and about 1 can of water. Blend with a whisk until well mixed.

5. Pour soup mixture over the beef and vegetables and mix well. If baking in the oven, place a lid over the mixture and cook at 350 for 2 to 4 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are done and gravy is thickened. If using a crock pot, cover and cook on HIGH for about 3 hours, then turn down and cook about 2 to 3 more hours, or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Chicken stew

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1/2 cup celery, sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

5 cups chicken broth

3/4 pound small yellow or gold potatoes, cut into halves or quarters

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen cut green beans

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

2. Cook the chicken in a single layer for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. You may need to cook in batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove chicken from pot and cover to keep warm.

3. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Add the garlic to the pot; cook for 30 seconds. Remove the vegetables from the pot.

4. Melt the butter in the pot. Add the flour and whisk until combined. Cook for 1 minute.

5. Slowly pour the broth into the pot, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and vegetables to the pot of broth, along with the potatoes, Italian seasoning, thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Season the stew with salt and pepper, to taste.

6. Bring the stew to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the frozen peas and green beans. Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve. Makes 6 servings.

Paul Lynde’s stew

When I first tried this decades ago, I really liked it. But that was when I was fairly new to being a cook in my own household. Maybe my tastes matured, but when I made this about five years ago, I was not all that impressed anymore.

Paul Lynde made this on the old television show hosted by Mike Douglas, and viewers could write in for the recipe. I am including it here because other people still say they like it. Blame me if you are among those who just say “meh” about it. Also, a lot of people do not like canned peas, so I would use frozen ones.

2 to 3 pounds beef stew meat

1 can beef broth (or 1 teaspoon beef extract mixed with 1 cup boiling water)

1 can (15-oz.) diced carrots, drained1 can (15-oz.) stewed tomatoes 1 can or jar (8-oz.) white pearl onions, drained

(NOT pickled cocktail onions)

1 can (15-oz.) stewed or regular tomatoes

1 can (15-oz.) peas, drained

1 can (15-oz.) cut green beans, drained

1 can (15-oz.) small whole potatoes, drained

3 tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) quick-cooking tapioca or corn starch

1 level tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used seasoned)

1 bay leaf, optional

3/4 cup to 1 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 250. Combine everything in a large casserole dish.

2. Cover and cook in oven for 6 to 7 hours.

3. Note: The original recipe I have says to layer the stew in a crockpot or Dutch oven as follows: meat, vegetables, dry ingredients, wet ingredients; don’t stir. Cook at 250 “all day”. Makes 6 servings.

Vegetable stew

You can add more of your favorite veggies if you wish.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 cup rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 pint hot vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, undrained

1 to 2 cups canned haricot or navy beans, drained

1 handful chopped parsley

1. Heat the oil in a large pot; add the onion and fry slowly for 5 minutes. Add the other vegetables, cover and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until they start to soften.

2. Pour in the vegetable stock and canned tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the canned beans and cook for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

3. Sprinkle the vegetable stew with chopped parsley to serve. Makes 4 servings.



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