Monday, July 15, 2013

Beans and Beef Doesn't Always Mean Chili.

There are too many times I stand and stare into the depths of the refrigerator and freezer wondering what to make for dinner. That's also how I come up with many of my spontaneous recipes; boredom, frustration and a "I wonder if..." attitude. Holding a two and a half pound package of stew beef (beef cubes) in my hand, I wondered what in the world to do with it. Not beef stew again, just did that two weeks ago; not chili, just not in the mood for it and then I would have to make a truly large batch to share with my mom-in-law which meant going out to the store for more meat. Too much effort! Then I remembered my Taste of Home winning recipe, "Beefy Barbecue Macaroni", but I didn't want to deal with the cheese sauce and wasn't in the mood for pasta. Sometimes I am just my own worst enemy, especially when it comes to cooking.

Still had no clue what to create, so decided to trim the stew beef cubes and maybe an idea would come to me.  Now stew beef is essentially all the bit and pieces the butchers cut off steaks and roasts; sometimes there is a good bit of meat left, so they package it up for consumers to buy and make recipes such as chili, beef stew, maybe even kabobs.  However you should always examine the beef before just throwing it into your pot, as many pieces may need to be trimmed of fat; some might be pure fat themselves.  If you don't want to deal with this process, then go ahead and purchase a nice lean roast and just cut it up yourself.  With the beef I had, I needed to cut only a little fat off, but I finally decided to use the crock pot and made them as uniform to one inch as I could.

Alright, kind of use that recipe I mentioned, but in the crock pot; but no cheese, what am I going to do without cheese?  Looking around the pantry I found cans of red kidney beans; well just because I was adding beans didn't make it chili, right?  These are the ingredients I finally centered on: barbecue sauce, the beans, tomatoes, red onion and green bell pepper.  I was going to make a barbecue sauce based beef stew, but without the traditional vegetables of carrots and potatoes.

Let me tell you that this concoction of mine came out amazing.  The beef was so tender, it basically melted in the mouth; and absorbed the barbecue sauce flavor well.  The tomatoes did not break down into complete mush; the onion and peppers became very soft; usually green bell peppers are harsh in flavor, but they melded in perfectly.  The beans did not become too soft, or remain too firm; as Goldilocks would say, "They were just right".  The smell was intoxicating; the taste was just as equal.  This is the kind of meal you can enjoy as is, or with a side of mashed potatoes, rice, pasta or polenta.  I did not have to add lots of seasonings or even garlic as the bottled sauce I used had everything I needed - Jack Daniels Hickory Brown Sugar.  I didn't dredge the beef in the flour, then fry it; I didn't want to add anymore oil into this dish than the nonstick cooking spray added.  I also didn't want additional liquids like beef stock as I knew the beef and vegetables would exude their own moisture.  One thing I notice with recipes like this is that the home cook will add pasta to the pot; all well and good, but remember that pasta is like a sponge and will absorb all excess liquids.  I wanted a nice thick sauce with this meal, not anything watery, or so firm a fork would stand up straight in it.

Here's the recipe...

BBQ Beef Stew


2 ½ lbs beef cubes; trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups chopped red onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup red kidney beans
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 (19 oz) bottle bbq sauce (hickory brown sugar)


Spray a 4 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; set on low heat.  Spread beef cubes on bottom and sprinkle flour over all.  Spread other ingredients out in layers: onions, bell pepper, beans and tomatoes.  Pour bbq sauce on top; cover and cook for 8 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

BBQ Beef Stew with Elbow Macaroni

BBQ Beef Stew with Mashed Potatoes

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