History on the Table: 1890s Chuckwagon Beef Stew
In the early days of the cattle industry, before cross-breeding with other stock, Texas beef was very lean. Therefore, it was best cooked slowly over a low heat for a long period of time. Stewing was the ideal cooking method for early beef. This recipe comes from Chef Nick Castelberg’s official George Ranch Historical Park cookbook. The cookbook is available here at the Ranch and at the Fort Bend Museum’s gift shop.
With the cold weather setting in today, this beef stew recipe is sure to warm your Texas heart and soul. Just add some beans and cornbread and you’re set! Serves 4-6.
• 2 lbs. beef stew meat
• 4 large potatoes, peeled & cubed
• 2 large onions, diced
• 4 large carrots, ½-inch slices
• 2 cups beef stock
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
• ½ cup flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. black pepper
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 tbsp black pepper
• ½ cup flour
1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add beef and coat (“dredge”) until all sides are covered.
2. Heat oil in a large pot; add meat and brown on all sides (try to get as much rich, brown crust on the meat as possible).
3. Add stock, bay leaves, potatoes, onions and carrots. If liquid does not cover the meat, add enough water or stock to cover and bring to a boil.
4. Cover and simmer for at least 2 hours. Add roux.
1. In separate pot, bring oil to medium heat and stir in flour to make a dark roux. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly as the flour browns. This will take about 20 minutes.
2. Just before serving, bring the stew to a boil, add the roux and stir.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chef Nick’s Notes: The rule of making a roux is to add hot roux to a cool liquid or a cool roux to a hot liquid, so let the roux cool to room temperature for this recipe.