Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Table, Hutch, and a Hearty Beef Stew

When I was a little girl, my Mother had a set of brown dishes with cream colored edges. We lived in New England and the dishes went perfectly with her Colonial Style Home. Every Saturday night we had Boston Baked Beans with Brown Bread. Served on the beautiful lustrous dishes, it was a homespun, heartwarming meal. Only one piece of that dish set remains, a 'chip and dip' platter, which I have. I have looked for that particular style of stoneware for years, but have not come across any of it. But I have collected a few similar pieces.

They seem to go well with my everyday blue dishes and are perfect for fall and winter. I have enough  covered soup pots now to serve my whole family when they come to dinner. There are 10 of us now, what with Hubby and I, the 4 'kids' and their significant 'others'.

These dishes fill my heart with nostalgia. Humble little reminders of days gone by. I also have a little collection of small brown crocks with locking lids. I don't know why I love them so. Years ago you could buy them with a particular brand of spreadable cheddar cheese, called 'Port Wine Cheese'. You can still buy the cheese in the little plastic tubs that fit inside the crocks for serving. But the brown crocks are a thing of the past. You can still find them in antique stores occasionally.

I have had this pretty soup tureen since I was a young bride. My Dear Mother bought it for me on my 23rd birthday. We had both just moved to Oregon and were far from home, setting up new households with what little we brought along with us. It is hand painted in the beautiful fall colors of my birthday month, October. My Mother was still a young Mother herself, with 3 daughters still to raise. I was a new Mother with another on the way. We had moved to a new state, not knowing anyone, and we became very close, as we only had each other for female companionship.

This soup tureen represents that time in my life. Whenever my parents and sisters came to visit, I served Beef Stew out of this tureen. It was the one recipe I could prepare that I knew would turn out well every time. I was just learning to cook.

I have always kept it on my highest kitchen shelf, but here I have moved it into my 'Kitchen Queen' along with my small collection of cream cookware. It seems to fit perfectly here, and it is right where I can enjoy it's sentimental beauty every day.

My Beef Stew recipe is the one she passed down to me. She gave me the little cookbook that she had used since she was a new bride. It is called 'Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cook Book'. Inside is the recipe. She made it her own by adding her own personal touch, as I have done. But the basic ingredients are still the same.

My family loves this recipe and 'Stew Night' was always greeted with anticipation. This stew is even better the next night, as the flavors mellow and mingle overnight. Here is the recipe:

Hearty Beef Stew
With Dumplings 
Serves 6-8

2 lb. boneless top round, bottom round, or sirloin tip Steak, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 cup flour
3-4 Tbsp veg. oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 (32 oz.) containers Beef Broth
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
4-6 small Bay Leaves (be sure to remove before serving- can tie in cheesecloth bundle if desired)
1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp sugar

26 oz. can (family size) Cream of Mushroom Soup

4-6 thin skinned potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
4-6 carrots (can use frozen cut carrots)
Various other vegetables as desired, such as rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, small peeled onions,  and - or mushrooms (I use turnip, frozen pearl onions and mushrooms)

Heat oil and garlic on med-high heat in a heavy stock pot.

Mix the flour, a little sprinkle of salt and pepper, and beef cubes until beef is completely covered in flour mixture.

Brown Beef on all sides, adding Worcestershire sauce towards end of browning, sprinkling over all. Meanwhile add sliced onions and mushrooms and cook alongside beef until all are golden.

Add the beef broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, salt, pepper, sugar, and allspice. Bring just to a boil, then turn down heat to med-low and keep it at a slow simmer for about 1 and 1/2 hours.

After simmering 1 and 1/2 hours:
 Right before adding vegetables, stir in Cream of Mushroom Soup (this thickens the stew) 

Cut potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables into bite sized cubes and add to beef stock. Bring back up to a low boil.

Meanwhile, prepare dumplings.

I use the Bisquick recipe on the side of the box, but if you don't have Bisquick, here is a Biscuit recipe that can be used for dumplings.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Sift these together. Then using a pastry blender or a fork, add 4 Tbsp cold butter cut into small chunks, until coarse crumbs form.
Add 3/4 cup Milk 
Mix until soft dough forms.
(At this point you can either make biscuits or dumplings.) To make biscuits, roll out on a floured board and cut out with round cutter and bake in baking pan at 400 degrees for 10-12 min.
or;  to make dumplings, simply drop the dough by large spoonfuls into simmering stew. Cook uncovered for 10 min. Cover and cook 10 min. longer.
Remove dumplings to a serving platter
Ladle stew into bowls and top with a dumpling. Serve with a nice green salad, if desired.

This stew will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

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Thank you for stopping by! Your comments are important to me and are very much appreciated. xx Karen

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