“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

I have never been a fan of beef stew. Never, ever, ever. Every year on our birthdays, my mom would let us pick our favourite meal. Every year my brother Tom always picked stew. I always thought he was wasting his choice, because to my mind beef stew was disgusting and shouldn’t been consumed on any day of the year, let alone your birthday. (My choice, if you’re wondering, was lasagna. Yum.)

Fast forward a few decades. Needless to say, my palate and food choices have become much wider. I’ve eaten things I would have never dreamed possible in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s. Since I got married, my husband, who likes stew, kept telling me I would like it. I’d look at the component parts in the recipe and figured I’d give it another go. Given that I didn’t mind the component parts, surely as an older and wiser woman I would like beef stew.

As I’ve tried a variety of recipes, both here on Cookbook A Month and on my own, the results have been mixed. While I certainly have moved away from the “I Hate All Beef Stew” opinion, it’s never a sure bet that I’ll like it.

I’ll spare you the suspense: I liked this one! It made the house smell nice on a cold February afternoon, it was from the long-and-slow school of cooking, which I love, and it was delicious. Kudos to the fine butchers at Dring’s who not only helped me pick out the correct beef, but also gave me the most excellent tip to make dumplings for the top, which were fantastic.

However– and there’s always a however to ruin the fun– while I liked it, the other two-thirds of my family did not. For this stew, you add some lemon peel for the slow cook. They thought the lemon taste was too overwhelming and didn’t fit in with beef stew. I disagreed, saying that it made the dish lighter and more interesting. Regardless, it was not a 100 percent success, so I don’t know if I’ll be making it again.

Too bad.

“Caramelized Onion and Beef Stew” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Featherblade Bourguignon” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

IMG_2303I need to lay all my cards on the table right now: I’ve always hated beef stew. Sure, you can fancy it up by calling it Beef Bourguignoun, but it’s still stew. And I always thought, “Yuck.”

I’m not sure why– does anyone know why they hate perfectly reasonably foods– but I never could abide it. In our family, we always got to pick our favourite meal on our birthdays and my brother Tom always, always, ALWAYS picked stew. So I could count on being forced to eat it one day a year. Yuck.

In recent years, when my cooking became better and we became more adventurous, my husband (who also loves beef stew) encouraged me to try it again. I tried all sorts of variations, but the one that most sticks with me is the time I made the Julia Child version from her classic tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (a cookbook I highly recommend, by the way). I thought surely I would like that one. I sourced the best beef from our local butcher. I lovingly slaved over the dish for an entire afternoon. It even smelled good. But when I sat down and took my first bite, I thought, “Nope. Yuck.”

But to make a long story short, this beef stew, sorry Featherblade Bourguignon, was DELICIOUS. I did not sit down and think, “Nope. Yuck.” I thought, “Yes. Yum.”

It was, by a million miles, the best stew, sorry “Featherblade Bourguignoun” that I’ve ever had. I even reheated some the next day for my lunch. And I’m already planning on making it again for Sunday dinner. And again for when my parents happen to be here for Tom’s birthday, because even though he won’t be here (he’ll be home in North Carolina), I think it would make them happy to have beef stew, sorry “Beef Bourguignoun”, on that particular day since they had it on day so many times before.

That, my friends, is a successful recipe.

I’m really not sure why this one succeeded where so many before it had failed. But succeed it did.

If you want to make this yourself, maybe for your next Sunday lunch or once the autumn really settles in, click through this sentence to find the recipe in Google Books.

“Featherblade Bourguignon” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

“Rump Steak ‘Stew’ ” from “Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes”

IMG_6054Tim: Well, this doesn’t look like any stew that I know.

Maureen: It’s true, though maybe that’s why I was keen to make it. As you know, I hate stew.

Tim: But I also made dumplings to go with it! This isn’t the type of stew that requires dumplings.

Maureen: No, it is not. But what do you think?

Andrew: It’s good, but I could do without the mushrooms.

Nicholas: I like the steak, but it could do without the spinach. You know how I feel about spinach.

Maureen: Your dislike of spinach has been made abundantly clear. I can’t understand it, since I love spinach, but there we are.

Tim: This is good, but really it’s just steak with some vegetables.

Maureen: Tom says in the introduction that it’s more a stew of flavours that you cook quickly, rather than a traditional stew that takes a long time. Saying that, at least this was one of the speedier meals in the book, which is good for a weeknight dinner. I would eat this again. Would you?

Tim: Yes, I would.

Andrew: Maybe.

Nicholas: I would, if it didn’t have the spinach in it.


“Rump Steak ‘Stew’ ” from “Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes”