Simple Beef Stew

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Total Time: 3 1/2 hours

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups dark beer, such as porter or stout, divided
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups beef or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (Burns family note: Use Le Creuset Dutch oven.) Add the beef in batches in one layer, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with remaining beef.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the Dutch oven. Add the shallot and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add 1/2 cup beer to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits with a spoon. When the beer is nearly evaporated, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly caramelized, about 1 minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir to coat.

Add the remaining 1 cup beer, the stock, bay leaf, brown sugar, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While the meat is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions and lightly season with salt. Saute until the vegetables begin to soften without browning, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, onions and potatoes to the stew and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove bay leaf and serve warm ladled into bowls.

Sean: Omit carrots and potatoes

Published in: on April 11, 2021 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Glorious Chicken and Mushrooms

Based on “Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms (Chicken Gloria)” from Natasha’s Kitchen

Serves 4

1 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large), cut into 1 -inch wide strips, larger strips cut in half cross-wise
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour to coat the chicken
2 Tablespoons olive oil divided
1/2 pound mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 medium onion or 1 large shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced

For the Sauce:

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon chicken Better than Bouillon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup half and half

  1. Saute the onion or shallot in a small skillet in 1 Tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat until soft.
  2. In the meantime, season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge both sides in flour. Heat 1 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Once oil is hot, add chicken and saute until golden. Work in batches so you don’t crowd your pan. Don’t worry about cooking the chicken through; it still needs to go in the oven. Transfer chicken to an 8×8″ casserole dish.
  3. To the pan you took the chicken out of, add another teaspoon of oil if needed, and saute the mushrooms until soft and golden. Add garlic and sauteed onions and saute another 1-2 min. Spread the mixture over the chicken.
  4. In a medium saucepan (or in the same pan you’ve been using), melt 2 Tablespoons butter. Whisk in 2 Tablespoons flour and cook until lightly golden (1-2 min).
  5. Add the hot water (all at once), Better than Bouillon, lemon juice, and pepper, and whisk until smooth. Add the half & half and bring to a simmer. Taste and correct seasoning.
  6. Pour sauce over the chicken and mushrooms. Cover with foil and bake at 350˚F for 45 minutes.
Published in: on January 31, 2021 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Mashed Potatoes

Anna & Sean’s favorite.

For one.  Multiply to serve more people.

1 russet potato
1-2 Tablespoons cream, half & half, whole milk, 2%, 1% or non-fat milk (in decending order of richness and deliciousness)
1-2 teaspoons of butter

Peel the potato and cut it into 1″ slices.  Cut the slices into 1″ chunks and put them in a sauce pan big enough for your potato masher to fit into.  Cover with filtered water by 1″, add a big pinch of salt, cover the pan, and set on the stove over medium heat.

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a glass measuring cup and add the butter.  Set it on the back of the stove to warm.

Put your colander in the sink.

When the potatoes are boiling, turn the heat down a bit and let them simmer until just tender – 15 minutes or so?  Poke the tip of a knife, or a fork, into a couple of the chunks:  they should give very little resistance.  You do not want them overly mushy or waterlogged, but you don’t want them hard in the middle either.

When they are done, pour the potatoes and cooking water into the colander, then turn the potatoes back in the pot, on the hot burner, with the lid off, to let them dry out for a minute or so.

Turn the heat to low.  Mash with the masher until pretty smooth.  Add the warm cream and butter and mash again.  Cover and hold ’til dinner time.  Stir again before serving – you may need to add a little more butter or cream to get the consistency you prefer.

Published in: on November 9, 2019 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Taco Beef

1/2 to 1 onion, grated, minced, or chopped in 1/4″ dice
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1-3 teaspoons taco seasoning
1/2 cup tomato sauce (use the leftover marinara in the fridge)
1/4 cup water
1 cup of petite diced tomatoes

Put a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil (more if you are using more onion) and let it get warm.  Then add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent.  If Da will be eating, the onions must be completely soft, so grate the onion, or it will take at least 30 minutes.  You may add some water in the last 10 minutes or so to help it get softer.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in another cast iron skillet over medium heat.  (Grass-fed beef needs to be cooked over lower heat and for less time than regular, to keep it from getting tough.)  Put the whole block into the pan and chop it up with the top of the metal pancake turner/spatula thing.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown.  Get a big dinner plate, put the colander on it, and line the colander with three paper towels.  Scoop the beef into the paper-towel lined colander.  The remaining grease/liquid should go into the metal can under the sink:  put the can into the sink, bring the skillet to the can, pour into the can.

Return the beef pan to the stove.  Put the beef back in the pan.  Add the onions when they are soft enough.  Add the taco seasoning (jar to the right of the stove) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, water and diced tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until ready to go ahead with dinner.  Or let cool and refrigerate for later.

Published in: on April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  

Brown Beef & Mushrooms

Brown one pound crumbled ground beef in cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels on a plate or in a bowl.
Wipe out the pan.
Chop 1/2 lb mushrooms and saute in the same pan with salt and pepper.
Add beef to the mushrooms.
Add 1/2 cup of water, 1 teaspoon (or to taste) beef Better Than Bouillon, 1 Tablespoon tomato paste or marinara sauce, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Stir to combine and cook over medium heat until it is the consistency you like.

Serve over or next to rice, pasta or potatoes.

Published in: on April 6, 2018 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Smitten Kitchen Sizzling Beef Bulgogi Tacos

From “Smitten Kitchen EVERY DAY” by Deb Perelman

makes 8 small tacos, serving 3 or 4

1 lb ground beef
1 large garlic clove, minced
one 1- to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced (easy on the ginger for Sean)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Asian toasted sesame oil
red pepper flakes or sriracha

to serve
2 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
1 Tablespoon lime juice
plus lime wedges for serving
1 1/2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced
8 small flour tortillas (large tortillas cut in half work in a pinch)
diced tomatoes (I did not use this)
prepared kimchi (I did not use this)
chopped fresh cilantro
toasted sesame seeds (I did not use this – I forgot)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it is hot, add the ground beef and use a spoon or spatula to break it up, cooking the beef until browned, 7-10 minutes.  Drain any excess grease that has collected.  Add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and sesame oil to the pan and let simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste.

Toss the lettuce, lime juice, sesame oil, and scallions in a medium bowl to evenly coat.  Season to taste with salt.

Warm the flour tortillas individually in a dry skilled, lightly blistering them.  Scoop the beef onto each tortilla with a slotted spoon, draining any excess juices.  Garnish with the salad mixture, tomatoes, kimchi, cilantro, and toasted sesame seeds.

These are equally wonderful in Boston or Bibb lettuce cups, in which case you would skip the lettuce in the salad.


Or serve the salad on the side, with Benihana Ginger Dressing.

Published in: on January 4, 2018 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Slightly adapted from a recipe from Meal Makeover Moms’ “No Whine With Dinner”

Makes 8 Servings

  • 2½ pounds pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half across the equator and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
  • 6 oz barbecue sauce
  • 8 whole wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  1. Put the pork, carrot, red bell pepper, onion, and barbecue sauce in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until the pork is tender, 6 to 8 hours.
  2. When the meat is done, drain off juice as desired. Use two forks to pull the meat into shreds.  Stir until well combined, adding more sauce as desired.  Divide the pork mixture evenly between the hamburger buns and serve.

Ma  yes
Sam  so-so
Anna  so-so
Da   yes

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 5:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Barley Pilaf

From “Simply  Satisfying” by Jeanne Lemlin

Serves 4

1 cup barley
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups (6 oz) quartered mushrooms
1 large onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (omit for Sean)
1 2/3 cups Vegetable Stock
2 teaspoons tamari or other soy sauce1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the barley in a strainer under cold running water, then put it in a medium saucepan and cover it with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then trun off the heat and cover the pan.  Let sit for 1 hour, then drain thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Melt the butter in a medium flameproof baking dish over medium heat.  (I do this in a cast iron skillet.)  Add the mushrooms, onion, and thyme, and saute for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown.  (I give the onions about an 8-minute head start because onions have to be completely soft for Sean.)

Add the drained barley, stock, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, and toss to mix.  (I use my 10″ square covered Corningware casserole.)  Cover the baking dish and bake undisturbed for 1 hour, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Do not stir until just before serving.  Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until you are ready. May be prepared up to 48 hours in advance and chilled.  To reheat, add a few Tablespoons of water or stock and place in a 350 degree F oven until hot, about 20 minutes.

Ma  yes
Da  yes
Anna  yes but without the mushrooms
Sam no

Published in: on May 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Da’s Tuna Mac


1.5 cups elbow macaroni
2 small cans tuna
mayo to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni until as done as you like it, being careful not to overcook, because you want it to stay intact.  Rinse well under cold water and drain well.  Meanwhile drain the tuna (give the tuna water to the cats), put it in a large bowl and flake with a long-tined fork.  Mix in the mayo with the fork, adding more than you would for making tuna salad for sandwiches.  With a large rubber spatula, mix in the drained macaroni.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until serving time.

Da yes
Sam yes
Ma yes (put prefers to add celery, green onion, minced red pepper)
Anna no

Published in: on February 15, 2016 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Chow Mein

Serves 4

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced thinly across the grain
2 large baby bok choy, stems sliced 1/4″ thick, leaves in 2″ pieces (omit for Sean)
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 green onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then in 1″ pieces (cut smaller for Sean)
2 packages Yaki Soba fresh noodles, or 2/3 package dry noodles
1/2 cup Kikoman stir fry sauce (or 1/4 cup soy sauce + 3 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce + 1/4 teaspoon black pepper)
1/4 cup water

Warm the noodles according to package directions.  Heat oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken and cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove to a plate.  Add the bok choy stems and carrot and cook until softened.  Add the peas, green onions, sauce, water and noodles and cook and stir until as done as you like.  Add the chicken and warm through.  Serve immediately.

Published in: on January 18, 2016 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment