Beef Stew, or, How My Dad Taught Me to Cook

I didn’t learn how to cook from a book.

I didn’t learn by constantly practicing recipes constantly, by being tied to what someone else told me was the ‘right’ way.

I learned to cook by throwing things into a pot and looking at them.

I remember my dad cooking when I was growing up. It was always an interesting set up, with half of the kitchen covered in whatever he had dragged out of the cupboards and the other half of the kitchen covered in whatever powdery substance was involved-flour, chili powder, salt. If you walk into my kitchen while I’m cooking you’ll see what those kitchens looked like 20 years ago.

The thing is, watching my dad cook imprinted my own cooking styles on me. Why are my recipes so loose? Because I cook the way he does. It’s definitely a trial and error process but the thing is, you can learn a lot about food by dumping it into a pot and looking at it. Stirring it around, tasting it, seasoning it, and looking at it. You learn how you want it to taste by learning to recognize what ‘right’ it. The way that chili turns brown when seasoned right, how to tell if you need to thicken a stew. You have to interact with your food this way and let it tell you what this batch needs, and not what the batch of the recipe tester tells you it does.

We both cook barefoot as well, which has scared more than a few people throughout the years.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this to you, but thanks Dad.

The Beef Stew Not-Recipe

1 can beef broth, with salt

1 packet beef stew flavoring-I used Mrs. Dash’s

1 to 2 lb beef stew meat (or venison)

Root vegetables and onions, roughly chopped-use what you have. I used carrots and potatoes

Optional: red wine

Optional: salt free all purpose seasoning mix

In a large pot over medium high heat, bring all ingredients to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes. If the gravy starts thickening down too much add a little water. You don’t want to add a lot of wine, but a few splashes will round out the flavor. You can brown the meat prior to stewing but I never do.

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