I have been thinking about beef stew for weeks, ever since it first began to get chilly. There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to cook. I’ve been thinking a lot about chili and roasted root vegetables and pots of pinto beans too!
But some of those things are time consuming, so I picked up stew beef when I saw it on sale, got all the vegetables I wanted late last week, and planned to tackle the stew this weekend.
It was a busy weekend as always, so I made my preparations in stages: On Friday night I floured and browned the beef, and sauteed the onions, peppers, celery, and herbs from my garden, then put all that in the stockpot and refrigerated it. Saturday evening I added the liquid and started simmering.
Finally, this afternoon was the time for chopping vegetables (lots and LOTS of vegetables) and letting it all cook together so we could have it for supper.
Well, I put the pot on the stove and turned it up high to get it boiling. I didn’t realize that all the beef had settled to the bottom of the pot. I didn’t think and I didn’t pay attention until I smelled the scorching. By the time I moved the pot off the stove the damage was done–only a few pieces of beef were burned, but the broth had that terrible scorched taste.
I’ll end your suspense right now and tell you that with a lot of work I was able to pretty much fix the stew. And I’m going to tell you the steps I took–thanks to all those genius internet cooks out there–in case something like this ever happens to you.
First, a no-brainer: I transferred it all to another pot, with NO SCRAPING involved.
Second, I peeled and halved two potatoes and cooked them in the broth for about thirty minutes to absorb some of the flavor. Then I repeated it with another pair of potatoes. (The potatoes got added to the dogs’ dinner, so we are all winners!)
Third, I threw in a couple of pieces of bacon and some all-purpose “BBQ” seasoning, meant to fool the tastebuds into interpreting that burned taste as though it were meant to be there!
Fourth, I added more liquid to the stew (which I would have been doing in any case), beer, as it happens–and threw in a few more beef bouillon cubes.
Fifth, I put in some apple cider vinegar and a couple of spoons of sugar.
I tasted after each step, and yes, it was getting better, but the taste was still lurking. It was at this point that all the vegetables were finally chopped and ready to be added and I may as well tell you what they were: rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, and three kinds of potatoes.
Finally, when the vegetables had softened I added the final ingredient, which completely got rid of the lingering source. What I want to know is why this works and who thought of it. I imagine some frantic crazy woman so exasperated with the bad taste of her stew that she just yelled, “The hell with it!” before dumping in a spoonful of . . .
Yes, that’s right. And it was like a miracle. It melted right in and took away the bad smell like creamy peanutty magic.