The Weekly Kitchen: Dining like the Eisenhowers


By ANGELA MCRAE, Special to The Weekly

Let’s talk politics!

Just kidding. You’re probably thinking, “Let’s not,” but I do have a recipe with a political connection to share with you, and it’s this beef stew that was said to be President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s favorite.

I found this recipe in a 1962 cookbook called Look Who’s Cookin’ at Carson’s! The book was compiled and published by the Women’s Club of the Carson Pirie Scott department store in Illinois, and while it includes lots of dessert recipes, it did include a few heartier recipes, including this one that seemed perfect for what I suspect are the last truly cool days we’ll have for a while.

Now, this recipe was submitted by a Fran Bloch of Peoria, Illinois, but she noted that Mamie Eisenhower herself had sent this recipe “upon request from the Cow Belles of Dunn Center, North Dakota.” What on earth?

Consulting Google, I quickly learned the “Cow Belles” were the female members of the North Dakota Stockman’s Association. And that made sense. Kind of like the Georgia Beef Board, the North Dakota group exists to promote the beef cattle industry. (The Georgia group is welcome to send me any 1960s-era recipes they may have tucked away.)

I did take a few educated guesses with this recipe. It called for an unnamed quantity of “Bouquet Spices” of bay leaves, thyme, and garlic in a cloth bag. Although I’ve used such bags before for steeping tea, I didn’t have one at the moment I made the stew, so I guessed about the amounts of thyme and garlic and plopped in two bay leaves, which worked beautifully—but don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before eating the stew!

Also, I knew from past experience that flour or another starch is sometimes used to thicken soups and stews, and adding a flour-and-water concoction known as a “slurry” keeps the stew from ending up with lumps of flour.

This stew was easy to make, and I’m grateful to Mamie Eisenhower for sharing such a tasty recipe. It was fun to think I was dining like a president, and I liked Ike’s stew!

President Eisenhower’s Favorite Beef Stew

2 pounds stew beef, sliced into 3/4-inch chunks
1 pound small Irish potatoes (or any white potatoes), chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch carrots (about six), sliced
3/4 pound small onions, chopped
2 fresh or 1 (14.5-ounce) can tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2-1/2 pints beef stock
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a Dutch oven or other large pot, cook stew beef until tender. (I cooked mine in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 10 minutes.) Add vegetables, spices, and beef stock and bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Once vegetables are tender, make a slurry by mixing the 4 tablespoons of flour with 4 tablespoons of water and whisking until completely blended. Add to stew and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove bay leaves before serving. Season as desired. Yields 6-8 servings.

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