06 February 2013

Recipe: Maggie's 5-Hour Stew

The past few weeks have been super busy for me. The good news is that, not unlike a ground hog, I've finally emerged from the deep hole I've been in for quite some time. Thanks to my friend Sharon, I'm back to making my all-encompassing lists, which gives me a sense of control and progress. (I've always been a list-maker. How and why did I get away from it?)

At any rate, my friend Maggie mentioned last week that she was planning to cook 5-Hour Stew, a favorite dish she's been making for years. Being in a stressed state, I was definitely in the mood for comfort food so my ears perked right up. I was also intrigued by the name. It's like a crock pot recipe, but made in the oven instead. 

  I was so fretful that day that I forgot to get the recipe from Maggie, but I found it easily on Food.com. I love the fact that there are ONLY 2 STEPS in the instructions, along with the "No Peeking!" part at the end, which Maggie told me is very important. In my recipe binder, it will be called Maggie's 5-Hour Stew!

Oven 5-Hour Beef Stew (from Food.com)

1-2 lb stew meat (Maggie suggested using chuck roast, so I followed her instructions!)
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced (white or yellow)
2 cups carrots (I used the mini carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper 

 1 (10 1/2 ounce) can tomato soup (I substituted tomato paste with 1/2 can of water)
1 3/4 cups water

Directions (Look! only 2 steps!)
1. Combine all above ingredients into a large baking dish; cover with aluminum foil.
2. Bake for 5 hours at 250 degrees-- NO PEEKING!

* * * * * *
 Now I'm going to give you a "play by play" (that's my new basketball term!) describing my experience with this recipe!

Once I assembled all of the ingredients, I was happy this was NOT a crock pot recipe. There is NO WAY all of this would fit in my 3.5 quart crock pot. I began to have concerns about it fitting in my casserole dish, too, but I forged ahead anyway!
I cut up the onions and peeled the potatoes. I will go to almost any length to avoid peeling potatoes but I dutifully did as the recipe required. As I chopped, I began to think that the "5-Hour" part referred to prep time! No, I'm kidding. If you are remotely competent in the kitchen, the prep should take about 15 minutes.

In retrospect, I should have cut up the veggies in much smaller pieces. No one's mouth is THIS large!!!

Even worse was cutting up the meat! I do not like to cut up meat. Sure, I could have bought the already-cut-up stew meat listed in the recipe, but Maggie recommended buying a small chuck roast because it would taste better...and I think she's right about that. She also suggested cutting it up with my kitchen shears, but of course I only have Cutterbee scissors :) so I had to use a knife. Which brings me to another issue which may be of interest to any criminals reading my blog...there are NO SHARP KNIVES IN THIS HOUSE. After trying FOUR knives, I ended up using a serrated bread knife, which I'm pretty sure is all kinds of wrong.

Now I did feel somewhat proud of myself at this point. Here's why: I bought a roast which was double the size I needed, then froze half of the pieces so I can make the dish a second time. I even labeled the freezer bag. Go, me!

 Okay, there is no picture for this next step, because that's when trouble ensued. I put all of the cut-up veggies in my casserole dish (I have no idea how big it is -- maybe 9x11?) and it was almost overflowing before I added the meat! I had to take out quite a few of the onions to make room. So now I also have a bag of frozen onions for next time. Go, me? 

  Of course, I had failed to think about how I would possibly stir everything together with the "sauce" after the casserole dish was so full, so I mixed the sauce components in a dish thinking I'd just pour it over the meat and veggies. I think that worked ok...not great, but ok. 

 Note that I made one substitution with the recipe: Instead of tomato soup, I used tomato paste with 1/2 can of water, as suggested by a Real Cook in the recipe comment section on Food.com. Don't get me started about tomato soup. It gives me the willies just thinking about it! YUCK!

  So yeah, I realize this is probably NOT how the dish is supposed to look before it goes into the oven. It was so full that there was no room to stir but, in a somewhat cavalier move, I decided I would not fret about it. I hoped that it would all sort of meld together in the magic oven.

Still, I decided to put a baking tray under the casserole dish, should an unfortunate overflow occur. Not that the oven is squeaky clean, by any means. But I do want to avoid flames.

I had to leave the 5-Hour Stew in the oven a little longer than 5 hours, due to the fact that I somehow left the oven door slightly ajar for the first hour or so of cooking. HOW DOES ONE EVEN DO THAT? Well, I had moved a shelf and apparently it blocked the door. So I added another 30 minutes to make up for lost time.

 And this is the finished product. Admittedly, my food photography leaves a LOT to be desired, but the 5.5-Hour Stew was really quite good!

Keep in mind that it IS actually stew, as opposed to pot roast with veggies. With that fact more clearly in mind, next time I will cut everything up in much smaller pieces and set the table with bowls instead of plates! I might also add green peppers for a bit of color, as well as a titch more salt and garlic. Otherwise, it's definitely a keeper recipe!

If you're looking for a comfort food recipe -- AND you've got a sharp knife and a big casserole dish -- then this is the recipe for you!


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