Janet’s Beef Stew

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November’s here and there’s a  chill in the air today. I’m remembering the yummy comfort food dinners I made for my kids when they were young. One of their favorites was their Grandmother Janet’s beef stew. We made this stew together on one of her visits to Washington, State where we lived at the time. I have used this recipe ever since that day with just a few tweaks of my own. One of the magic ingredients in this stew is the fresh lemon juice. It gives the stew a fresh flavor. The beef, onion, garlic, fresh thyme, and Worcestershire sauce are mingling together in the pot. Then I add a big squeeze of half a fresh lemon. When the lemon juice hits the bottom of the pan the fragrance makes you instantly hungry. When I’m really craving a heartier dish, I omit the quartered potatoes and mash potatoes and top them with the stew and yummy gravy. I serve homemade biscuits with soft butter to dip in the gravy. I’m making this stew today and cherishing those memories of the past.

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Janet’s Brown Stew

2lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1”cubes

¼ cup flour to dreg the meat, optional

4 cups hot water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, ½ chopped and half sliced in half

2 bay leaves

Fresh thyme, 3 sprigs

2 tsp. Salt

½ tsp. pepper

6 carrots, sliced into rounds

4 potatoes, diced

Canola oil, as needed to brown meat

In a heavy saucepan, brown meat in canola oil. I like to dreg the meat in flour with salt and pepper this is optional. You don’t want to crowd the meat the browning is very important to the flavor of the stew. Do the meat in batches and set aside. Add chopped onion cook 4-5 minutes till tender and then add the garlic cook 1-2 minutes. Add the meat back to the saucepan, bay leaves, fresh thyme leaves, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper, and lemon juice. Add the potatoes and carrots. bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer after the boil. simmer 3-4 hours. If you want a thicker gravy use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with a little water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the stew then boil for 1 minute. Serve with biscuits or crusty bread.

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Au gratin Potatoes

I remember the first time I tasted Au gratin potatoes. My friend Deby told me about a little home turned into a restaurant. It was a few towns over from where I lived in Washington State.  I remember it was very small and crowded. Deby told me that she loved the Au gratin potatoes and said that’s was her favorite dish when she went there. I decided to order it as well. Just one bite and I knew I would be baking them at home. They were so creamy and buttery. I tasted a good bit of garlic as well. I know there was cheese on top too, but I chose to forgo the extra richness. I sprinkle a little fresh thyme on top of mine. These potatoes make a great side dish at any special meal.

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Au gratin potatoes

6 russet potatoes, (I have used Yukon gold as well)

3 large garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, diced, extra to butter your dishes

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

Salt and pepper

Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven 375 degrees

4 round baking dishes, 4 x 1 1/2, or 1 large baking dish

Rub these dishes with some of the extra butter

Measure the cream and milk out in a liquid measuring cup, stir together

Peel and rinse the potatoes, slice the potatoes about 1/8 inch of thickness

Put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of each dish, top with some of the minced garlic, then some pieces of the butter, and salt and pepper

Repeat this process 2 more times, you want 3 layers

Sprinkle the fresh thyme leaves over the last layer

Fill each baking dish with ½ cup of the cream and milk mixture, pour on the side of the dish so you don’t disturb the top

Place baking dishes on a baking sheet, cover with foil and bake 40 minutes

Remove the foil and bake, 20 minutes more the liquid will be thick and bubbly and the top will be brown and crusty looking

Let stand 5 minutes, and serve.

Enjoy!

Mash Potatoes

My favorite mash potatoes.
My favorite mash potatoes.

Mash potatoes have to be the ultimate in comfort food. Do you like them totally smooth, a few lumps, lots of lumps, dripping with butter melting off the top or with gravy in a pool on top? Honestly I could eat them any way they are served. I love Yukon gold potatoes best for mash potatoes. My preferred way to mash is with an old fashioned potato masher. You have total control of how smooth or lumpy the potatoes become. If  I want really smooth and creamy potatoes I  mash them until the lumps are out. If I want some lumps I mix them less. I love just a few lumps with butter or gravy. To put my mash potatoes over the top I add either 2 teaspoons of cream cheese or 1/2 cup of sour cream. To give them a little bite I add green onion or fresh chives. Boil 3 pounds of peeled and quartered  Yukon gold potatoes, Drain. Heat 2/3 cup of milk and add at least 6 tablespoons of butter and more butter to the top after there mixed. Lots of fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. I used sour cream and green onion for my potatoes.

This is a potato masher.
This is a potato masher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes (Photo credit: Indiana Public Media)
Boil the potatoes. Add a good splash of salt.
Boil the potatoes. Add a good splash of salt.
Gather your ingredients.
Gather your ingredients for mashing the potatoes.
Drain fork tender potatoes. Add the butter, salt and pepper. Mash to desired smoothness before adding any milk.
Drain fork tender potatoes. Add the butter, salt and pepper. Mash to desired smoothness before adding any milk.
Add the sour cream, milk, green onion. Mash to combine.
Add the sour cream, green onion. Mash to combine.
Add the milk and mash to combine.
Add the milk and mash to combine.
Completely mashed.
Completely mashed.
Ready to serve.
Ready to serve.

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Cream of Chicken and Potato soup

Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup
Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup

It’s a beautiful, chilly fall day here in South Jersey. My boys stopped by to visit today, so I thought I’d treat them to a comforting homemade soup. This soup reminds me of my chicken potpie filling, just a lot easier. I stopped at the food store after church and picked up a fresh rotisserie chicken to make the task a little easier. I want to cook them a homemade soup but have time to enjoy their company as well. Will call this semi homemade! The soup couldn’t be easier to put together. I peeled and chopped the veggies and put them in the pot, covered them with the stock cooked them till they were tender, and then added the prepared chicken.  While the veggies are cooking I made the white sauce then combined the two and our soup was ready. It’s rich and hearty, and tastes like it took hours to make. We all enjoyed the soup and spending some time together. Having my boys for a visit made my Sunday an extra special day.

Base of the soup.
Base of the soup.
White Sauce.
White Sauce.
Base of soup and white sauce combine.
Base of soup and white sauce combine.
Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup.
Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup.

Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup

Soup Base

5 Cups russet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks

1 small onion, chopped

3-4 Carrots, peeled wash a cut into ½ inch rounds

2 Bay leaves

4 Sprigs of thyme remove the leaves and discard the stems

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces, or the breast of one rotisserie chicken cut into bite sized pieces.

3-4 Cups chicken stock

½ Teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper to taste

Fresh parsley to garnish

White Sauce

5 Tablespoons butter

5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk, whole or 2 percent

In a large pot add the potatoes, onion, fresh thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and chicken stock. The stock should just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower to medium heat to simmer the vegetables until they are fork tender. About 12-15 minutes. Add the cooked chicken. Remove the bay leaves. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a large fry pan over medium low heat. Add the flour to the butter and stir with a whisk. Cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste from the butter. Turn the gas up to a medium high heat and add the milk slowly while whisking into the butter and flour mixture. Whisk till the mixture becomes thick and bubbly. With a wooden spoon add the white sauce to the vegetable mixture over medium heat slowly to combine. Taste for the seasoning you may want more salt or pepper at this point. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving. Cook 5-10 minutes more and serve or simmer on a very low flame till you are ready to serve.

If you would like to make this soup vegetarian use vegetable stock and omit the chicken. You could add celery and more carrots to make it a little heartier.

Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our Summer evenings, now for October eves!

Humbert Wolfe

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