The Weekly Kitchen: A ‘Don’t Look’ Stew Recipe

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By ANGELA MCRAE, Special to The Weekly

Last fall, I was out antiquing one day when I came across an item I’d had on my wish list for ages, an old metal recipe box packed full of handwritten recipes. One of them was written on the back of an old dry cleaning receipt from New Jersey. Another was scribbled on the back of a to-do list that included a reminder about “Jim’s sweater.” Some recipes had been typed on old typewriters. A recipe for key lime pie included a helpful hint: “This may look ‘loose,’ but it will set up quickly!” Only one recipe mentioned using a microwave, so I’m guessing these recipes date from the 1940s or ’50s through the ’80s.

I started reading those recipes like they were the latest thriller. Through them, I’ve gotten to know Kathy and Louise and Bess and Betty and Caroline. The vast majority of their recipes are for foods I would indeed like to make, so look for some of them to appear in this column throughout the year.

One short recipe attributed to a Shirley listed ingredients for a beef stew that is cooked at a very low temperature, 250 degrees, for five hours. The ingredients weren’t exotic ones, but what intrigued me was Shirley’s cooking note at the end: “Don’t look.” That’s all it said, and I can only assume Shirley wanted to stop curious souls from peeking inside the oven to check the dish’s progress.

Now I’m someone who likes to shake the Christmas gifts and figure out what’s inside. I have been known to flip to the last page of a book to see how it ended. But when I made this stew, Dear Reader, I want you to know that I. Did. Not. Look.

And boy, was it tempting. I’d just pulled a fresh loaf of homemade sourdough bread out of the oven when I popped this dish inside, so the house already had that nice homey smell. But as the vegetables cooked and the beef grew more and more tender, I was dying to see what it all looked like, but I didn’t peek once.

I have no idea whether Shirley is still with us, but I sure wish I could tell her thank you for a delicious winter recipe that was a real hit at my house. I hope some of you will make it too!

Shirley’s “Don’t Look” Five-Hour Stew

2 pounds beef, diced into 3/4-inch pieces (I used Beef Strip Manhattan Steak)
6 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 medium onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 tablespoons minute tapioca (found near the gelatin and pudding mixes)
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. 

Shirley’s directions: “Stir in casserole, cover, bake at 250 degrees for 5 hours. Don’t look.”

*After combining the ingredients, I poured the mixture into a greased 9×13-inch casserole dish, covered it with aluminum foil, and baked it for five hours. Yields 8-10 servings.

1 comment

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