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Irish Beef Stew
Recipe: Irish Beef Stew
Irish Beef Stew is another one of those recipes I forgot to ask for before my Mom died. In my mind, I could sort of see her make it but I didn't know exactly what to do. I sent an email to all of my brothers and sisters thinking maybe one of them had been smarter than me. Maybe one of them had coerced my mother into giving them the recipe, and maybe they would share it with me. It's a simple recipe. It had to be because my father didn't like complications in his food.
No luck. One brother, John, wrote back, "I don't even remember how Mom boiled water," and then went on to tell me the foods she made that he missed. My sister Beth wrote to say she watched Mom make it once, but that Mom told her it was never the same twice. Beth wasn't quite sure of all of the details, so I told her if what I came up with tasted even close, I'd pass it along. One other brother, Paul, just wished me luck. The others (I think) are still digging in their recipe drawers.
I was on my own--but I think this comes pretty close. When we ate the results, I was transported back to North Street, Appleton, Wisconsin, circa the '60s and, boy, it tasted good. I hope you like it too.
Special note: When my Mom made beef stew, she made it for a "crowd"--our family--in a large electric fry pan. She'd throw all ingredients in and let it cook on low for hours, sometimes all afternoon on a Sunday. This was before slow cookers or "Crock Pots." You can do yours in the slow cooker. I've done mine on the stove so you can see how to do it the old-fashioned way--the way they would have done it in Ireland years ago.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds beef stewing meat cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups beef broth
4 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
12 oz gravy (from a jar or you can make it yourself)
1 tsp sugar
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbl dried thyme
4 or 5 large baking potatoes (about 3 lbs), peeled and cut into large cubes
3 cups baby carrots or regular carrots peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
1 large onion cut into chunks
Water, if necessary
Get out your large soup pot. Seven- or eight-quart size will do it. Pour in your vegetable oil and put in your meat. Brown the meat on all sides quickly over medium high heat. Stir often to toss the meat around. You're not cooking it all the way through, just lightly browning the outside. (Five to six minutes.)
Pour in the broth, Worcestershire, gravy, sugar, tomato paste, salt and thyme. Stir this all up and bring to a boil. Then turn down to medium low. Let simmer covered for 45 minutes. Stir once in awhile to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. You'll open the pot and be amazed at how much gravy you have!
Now it's time to peel your potatoes. (If you peel them ahead, they will turn brown.) Add the potatoes, onion and carrots to your pot. Bring to a boil again. You're going to simmer 15 to 30 minutes more until the potatoes are soft but not mushy and the carrots are cooked. If the liquid is not covering everything, you can add up to 2 cups more water and stir it into the gravy. Don't worry. The sauce will thicken up again.
Chopped parsley just adds a little color at the end as a garnish. Serve in soup bowls or other big bowls with some nice bread to soak up the sauce. This is a simple, Irish meal. Don't try to make it fancy. You'll spoil the intention. Comfort food.
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