Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Beef Stew in the Dutch Oven

Even though we are experiencing a bit of a thaw here in New England, it’s still Winter in my book. And, as far as I’m concerned, a hearty Beef Stew is a perfect mid-winter meal!

I’ve always prepared my Beef Stew in my slow cooker, but–as you probably know–lately I’ve been in love with a beautiful 5.5 quart Dutch Oven I received this past Christmas from my older sister.

Actually I’ve jumped so far into Dutch Oven cooking, I braved an hour journey to the South Shore to score two new Martha Stewart Dutch Ovens–in glorious Spinach green–being offered by someone on Facebook Marketplace…but that’s a story for another post…

Back to this unbelievable Beef Stew in the Dutch Oven…

What amazed me the most about making this Stew in a Dutch Oven instead of a slow cooker, is how unbelievably tender the beef was! Just melt-in-your-mouth juicy, tender and flavorful beef, which is way beyond what a slow cooker can achieve. And yet, still as simple and easy to make.

I started by browning my Stew beef (about two pounds) on top of the stove with a tiny bit of oil and, I believe, this is what made the difference in the flavor of the beef. After browning the meat, I loaded up my pot with baby carrots, some sliced celery, large chunks of red potatoes, a diced onion and minced garlic. I then stirred in some diced tomatoes, beef broth and a little tomato paste, to make the gravy and placed the covered pan in my preheated 375 degree oven to cook for three hours.

I’m a “peeker”. I am compelled to check in on things and make adjustments during cooking. Thankfully that was a good thing for this recipe, as I did need to add some water. I ended up adding about a cup of water at the end of the first and second hours, because some of the natural liquid evaporated during cooking. This was the only difference in cooking in a Dutch Oven versus a slow cooker, which naturally keeps liquids from evaporating by using a tightly sealed cover.

For those on a budget, this recipe easily makes eight complete servings and cost less than $15 to make. That’s less than $2 a meal! Plus you get the benefit of knowing you made it yourself–with no “unwanted” ingredients AND the comfort of a warm and wonderful home on a cold winter’s night.

Why not give it a go? And, if you do, let me know how you made out!

Ingredients:

  • Two pounds of fresh stewing beef from your butcher
  • Five or six larger red potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • Baby carrots or regular carrots cut into large chunks
  • Two ribs of celery, sliced
  • One or two onions, rough chopped
  • Minced garlic to taste
  • 1 can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 32 ounces beef broth (boxed broth) or substitute cans to equal 32 ounces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water, if needed

Instructions:

  • On the stove top over medium high heat, brown the beef with a tablespoon of oil
  • Remove from heat and layer in potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and garlic
  • Pour in broth and diced tomatoes with juice and spoon in tomato paste
  • Cover Dutch Oven and put in preheated Oven for three hours, checking and gently stirring each hour. Add water if needed.

DIY · Dutch Oven · recipe

Chicken Stock in your Dutch Oven

I realize we are living in a world of conveniences and one of those “easy outs” is using canned or boxed broth/stock.

To be honest, I also use broth in my cooking, but I can sincerely say the quality of the homemade stuff FAR outweighs the convenience of the cans. Most of the famous chefs would agree, I’m sure.

But what’s a home chef to do?

Well, you could make your own stock, of course! Actually it’s an so easy–albeit messy–process and it would make full use of the chicken carcasses left over from a nice chicken dinner. If you have Dutch Oven, the process is easier–but just as messy. Sorry!

Are you ready for this? Cuz imma lay it down for ya.

First, you need a cooked chicken.

You can cook your chicken from scratch, like I did with my Chicken in a Dutch Oven or you could use a store-bought rotisserie style chicken, it doesn’t matter. I’m assuming that you have made a meal or two out of the chicken and mostly what is left is skin, bones and some hidden meat. That’s what we want. (The picture above shows a whole chicken I cooked in my Dutch Oven, but I have seriously done this with nearly all the chickens I get from Costco. Go, Costco! Whoot!)

The first step to making your own stock is to throw everything (Really…everything!!) from the leftover chicken into your Dutch Oven. Bones, skin, even that gelatinous stuff that congeals on the bottom of the plastic container. (It’s gross, I know…don’t look at it. Just throw it in!)

Then chunk up a couple of carrots, a few ribs of celery (if you have it–by the way, this is a great way to use up those veggies no longer salad-worthy!) and a whole onion cut into quarters (keep the onion skin on, because it adds color and flavor). Throw all the veggies in with the chicken carcass. Add some salt and pepper, too. Now cover the entire thing with water.

Bring the entire pot to a boil and then reduce it to simmer. I partially cover my Dutch Oven during simmering, so not a lot of the water evaporates. If you are leaving it uncovered, check as you simmer to make sure you haven’t lost a lot of water. Add more if necessary. You are going to simmer this big pot a long time…at least a couple of hours. This is a fun chore for a rainy/snowy day, by the way!

Simmer your chicken a good long while. You can check on it every half hour or so and add more water if you think it needs it. You’re aiming for an entire pot of liquid with a mess of bones on the bottom.

After a couple of hours, the meat and skin will completely fall off the bone and the bone structure will break down, too.

When you see the broth has become golden and your chicken has broken down, turn off your pot and allow to cool. Sometimes I just cover it and let it cool on a cold burner and come back to it later, because the whole mess is seriously hot! Watch yourselves, folks!

Once your ingredients have cooled to the point where you can handle them, head on over to the sink. You will need a big colander and another pot or bowl about as big as your pot. You are going to do the first strain of your chicken stock, so place the bowl under the strainer in the sink and slowly empty the contents of your now cooled Dutch Oven into the colander (this is why you cool it!).

I’m not going to lie. This step requires some practice, but know that and give yourself time. This is a learning process and you will improve. Note, too, that you may have to lift the strainer from time to time to help all the broth get into the bowl. Oh! And do remember to use a big enough bowl under the colander, so you don’t have to put another one there. (It’s an easy beginner mistake)

Once you’ve strained it the first time, it’s a good idea to strain it again. Some of those bones and things tend to sneak by the colander on the first pass.

In the end you should have a colander in the sink full of junk and a big pot of gorgeous, delicious chicken stock. If you are a true dyed-in-the-wool New Englander (like me!), you might pick through the colander for chunks of chicken you missed before the simmer. But that’s not for everyone, so you can just bag that junk up and dispose of it if it grosses you out too much. Work up to it! Haha!

You might notice, depending on how your bird was prepared, that you’ve got a thick stripe of fat that floats to the top of your pan. This happens often when I make stock with my Thanksgiving Turkey, because of the butter used in it’s preparation, but it’s also there on a store bought chicken. If you want to reduce the fat in your broth, place the strained pan of stock in your fridge for an hour or so and then use a spoon to delicately scrape off the congealed layer of fat. I’d you live in a cold climate, consider putting the covered pot on your porch in the winter (!) to accomplish this task. Depending on how the bird was originally prepared, this could be a good half inch of fat you are losing, but don’t worry, because there is still some left even after skimming.

After straining and skimming, you will have several quarts of gorgeous, glorious homemade chicken stock, which can be used to make anything.

Generally I will use half of the stock to make a soup or stew. You could make a simple noodle soup as shown or add your favorite ingredients (barley, rice, noodles, carrots, etc.) and make a more complex main course. Either way, you won’t be sorry you pushed your way through this messy process.

You can store the remaining broth in your fridge or even freeze it!! One tip I got a long time ago from either Julia Child or Martha Stewart (sorry that I don’t remember!) was freezing the stock in ice cube trays and then–when frozen–storing them in a zippy bag for future convenience. If you do this, make sure to put them in a bag once frozen! No one wants to have chicken broth ice cubes in their drink. Plus the stock you worked so hard for will get freezer burn and that would be a shame.

You may want to even water the stock down further if you are making soup. If you are making a gravy or creamy based dish, keep it full strength though.

I hope you will try to make your own broth at least once. It’s very helpful and you will feel so frugal you will squeal with delight (like I do!)

One critical note: As you know I am a dog owner and lover. Please–as much as they might go wild for them–don’t give chicken bones to your pups! They may like a bit of cooled stock–my Odie loved my stock–but never bones!

And that’s it!!

Are you going to try it? Have you already done it and would like to share your thoughts? Please do!!

One final note: I hope you’ve noticed, faithful reader, that I’m trying hard to provide you with lots of fresh and interesting content on my blog. Reviving my blog is one of my New Years Resolutions this year. So could you find it in your heart to become a regular reader and tell your friends about me? It will be super nice to know I have a small following and I’m not just talking to myself. I surely would appreciate it! Thanks!!

New England

In 1492…

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more people wanting to abolish Columbus Day on the grounds that Christopher Columbus shouldn’t be honored with a holiday.  Some folks have suggested we honor our Native Americans with a holiday, with which I completely agree.  We have long ignored and subjugated the people who resided here before our forefathers came and created the US; to not honor Native Americans is a complete travesty.  But, please, let’s not create a “mash up” by replacing Columbus Day with a Native American holiday!  

There are all sorts of arguments that could be made to abolish Columbus Day, and all kinds of arguments promoting a Native American holiday, too.  But further confusing American history by switching the name of this weekend won’t solve the issues.  

Holidays never seem to end up to be about their original goals anyway.  Hallowe’en–with its roots in the Celtic harvest traditions–was renovated by the Christians to include All Souls Day and All Saints Day, a three day religious observance called Allhallowtide.  Years later, when wayward children of the Depression Era began vandalizing and creating havoc in American cities, Halloween was reworked into its present day “children’s holiday” which is far from any original meaning of the holiday.  
I could dissect just about every holiday we celebrate in a similar way, but who has the time?  The point is we have an established holiday system and the days mean different things to different people.  

Columbus Day has rarely been about the adventures (or misadventures) of Christopher Columbus to me.  No, for me Columbus Day weekend has always been about enjoying the lovely early days of Autumn in New England, before the leaves fell.  A little break to enjoy the most beautiful time in New England!  A time to visit the Topsfield Fair–the oldest, continuously running state fair in America–or to be a “leaf peeper” on one of NE’s back roads.  It’s picking pumpkins and eating cider donuts time.  Catching an outdoor football game and hanging up Autumn decorations.  

The closest I ever came to honoring Columbus on this weekend was in childhood when my father, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, had us handing out Tootsie Rolls for donations on a cause I no longer remember.  The cause was probably some worthy Catholic one, but I only remember those delicious chocolately candies, in the EXTRA large size, which we bought by the case after the weekend collection was over.  Decades later, every time I see a Tootsie Roll, I think of my dad with great fondness and love.  

So, please, don’t send me any more petitions about how terrible I am to want to keep Columbus Day.  Don’t “tsk tsk” me for wanting to hold on to my childhood memories or our true New England traditions.  Let’s find another way of honoring the Native Americans who, under our European bravado, suffered greatly.  I’ll lend my signature and my voice to THAT cause, for sure…just not at the expense of my wonderful childhood memories.