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What do you put in stew?

The item about slow cookers started me thinking about stew, and what to put or not put in. My cooking heritage is mostly from eastern europe, and tomato NEVER went into the stew pot. I think I must have been in my early teens before I saw a tomato based stew. Often there were noodles, usually potatoes, carrots, celery, and beef. I don't much like celery and usually substitute green bell peppers. Sometimes I use stock, sometimes wine - usually red - and on occasion beer. Seasonings vary depending on what else I have put in and what I have on hand. Would love to hear the variations others grew up with or have adopted.

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  1. I think that parsnips and turnip add a nice depth of flavor to beef stew. I sometimes use a couple tablespoons of tapioca as a thickener, and I like to add some red wine as well.

    5 Replies
    1. re: rmperry

      Second on the "tapioca as a thickner" for slow cooked stew. What a surprise that was.

      1. re: rmperry

        Yep, I like to add parsnips too, even w/ potatoes in there. It adds another dimension.

        1. re: rmperry

          I recently tried tapioca as a thickener and while I prefer it to flour or arrowroot, I'm still uncertain about ratio of starch to liquid. Do you have a rule-of-thumb on this?

          1. re: Masonville

            My slow cooker recipe for Texas Chili (from The Everyday Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook, K. Broihier and K. Mayone) calls for 15 ounces of beef stock and two tablespoons of quick cooking tapioca, if that's of help to you.

            I had to pull that book out to refresh my memory; I think I'll make that very recipe this coming week. It's gooder than good and I'm brushing up my slow cooker skills now that we're getting ready for our first Phoenix summer.

            1. re: mandycat

              Thanks, Mandycat--that does help. Good luck w the chili. Last time I was in Phoenix was October, and it was 110. I belong in a colder climate.

        2. Red wine, beef, beef broth, potato, carrot, celery, onion, thyme, salt and pepper, a little flour for thickening.

          1. Instead of wine or beer, try vermouth. It has a lovely woodiness. A nice autumnal variation would be all root vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips.

            Garlic is totally necessary, as are onions, either chopped or pearl. A parmesan rind can add a nice nuttiness, as can a dash of nutmeg.

            1 Reply
            1. re: katecm

              If I add garlic, I like to add whole roasted cloves. I'll either roast a head and put some in, or saute cloves in olive oil until golden. They'll fall apart in the stew, giving it that yummy roasted garlic flavor throughout.

            2. I put a lot of what you do in your stew but I also add avocados!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sarah P

                Interesting. Avocados as thickener?

                1. re: Sarah P

                  Whoooooah. This I'm interested in. Never heard of a cooked avocado. What's it do--does it thicken? What's the cooked color? Is the taste altered by cooking?

                2. I brown the meat first and deglaze with wine, and my 'secret' spice is a lot (3 T?) of smoked paprika.I put barley in to thicken, all the root veggies, and whole canned tomatoes instead of the paste or suace. I use beef stock for the base. I put a whole clove of garlic in just about everything I cook but eggs :)