In a time not so long ago, I believed that making anything from scratch was impossible. I would try and consistently fail to make anything taste good. Something was always lacking from my dishes and I ended up finding refuge is those prepackaged, loaded-with-god-knows-what spice mixes.
Alfredo sauce? There’s a pack for that. Tacos? Yup. ANY kind of soup? There’s always a little package with everything you need, and no matter what you do wrong the copious amount of salt and spices is sure to cover it up.
Deep down, this always made me feel like a fraud. Nothing I made was my own, and I knew I wasn’t tasting what I was eating- just the package.
One day, I decided enough was enough already. If my grandmother can make this crap taste good, then damn it so could I!
I started really paying attention to my cooking and comparing it to other recipes to try to figure out what I was doing wrong. One of the first mistakes I was making was to think that you could get a flavorful soup in 15 minutes, so I learned to be patient.
Another thing I noticed is that I was afraid of over spicing and salting, so everything lacked that BAM! you saw from Emeril Lagasse. So, I stopped being afraid and just said F it. I played around with different flavors and refused to skimp.
Eventually, I started to figure out what herbs and spices actually did to food when used correctly and it was seriously gratifying.
Beef Stew was one of my very first success stories made totally from scratch. I love it because it’s so easy and that’s where you need to start to build confidence.
With this, there are so many variations of what you can use, too, that you can really work it around your budget. Whatever kind of beef, potatoes, and onions you can get on sale will do the trick! That flexibility can save a ton of cash.
Just a little tip for you, a lot of stores charge extra for beef cubes so if you just buy a big ol’ hunk of meat and cut it yourself, you’ll cut the cost!
I like to use less meat, so I keep my pieces really small and I always brown it before adding any other ingredients.
For the veggies, I notice a lot of people go crazy and that ruins it for me. Maybe it’s because we were poor growing up and couldn’t afford all that fancy crap, but to me beef stew is carrots, onions, and potatoes. That’s it.
And I will never trust someone who adds peas to their stew. Never.
Also, keep your stuff bite size. I always see these bitches on the food network putting whole carrots in their dishes. News flash: no one wants to cut up their stew. My grandma was bad with this, too, and I still haven’t forgiven her.
Okay okay, enough about my feelings… here’s where things get tricky. A lot of recipes call for liquid and THEN spices. Personally, I can’t get behind this. I don’t know if it actually makes a difference or not, but I always add the spices right to the meat.
Once the meat is covered; add the veggies and Worcester sauce, stir, and give it a minute to absorb. If it starts to get dry, just add a couple splashes of your stock.
After everything looks like it’s got a little of the goodness on it, add the rest of your stock and let father time do his thing.
I cook it on medium low for about two hours. This will get the veggies to the point where they sort of melt in your mouth.
BUTTTT, we ain’t done yet!
The last step is thickening up the juices. This is the part that I never understood, but it is actually a very simple ingredient- corn starch!
I didn’t take pictures of this step because I still get nervous that I’m going to screw it up. Even though that’s almost impossible.
Just take about 1/2 cup of hot liquid out of your pan and put it in a bowl with 2 tbsp of corn starch and mix really well. The problem that I used to run into was that it would clump. You just want to make sure you do it in a separate bowl (in case of clumps) and your liquid is hot and you stir it well.
I do that about halfway through the process to give it time to get nice and thick.
And that’s it! That’s all there is to it. you can serve it over rice or noodles, but I prefer it just how it is.
With a side of satisfaction, of course.
1lb beef, cubed
1 cup (each) diced carrots, potatoes, and onion
2 cloves garlic
4 cups beef stock
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp corn starch
In a large pot, brown meat (with salt and pepper) over medium heat
Once almost cooked, add minced garlic and let simmer about a minute
Add paprika, cumin, and onion power; mix to coat beef
Add veggies and worcester sauce and stir to coat
Pour in stock and reduce heat to medium low
After about an hour, remove 1/4 cup liquid from the pot and mix with corn starch until smooth
Add mixture back to pot and cook for another hour