WND – Birthday Stew

October 11, 2007

This is the end of the Fall Birthday Season. The weather cooperated and we had a cold gloomy day on Wednesday which went nicely with the beef stew and bread pudding that was requested for dinner.

Beef Carbonnade
Mashed Potatoes

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

There’s a story from when I was a wee young thing in which I was given a homework assignment to come up with three sentences using contractions. Allegedly, I returned to school the next day with the following three sentences:

I don’t eat broccoli.
I won’t eat broccoli.
I can’t eat broccoli.

I don’t actually remember this, but I do remember how much I loathed broccoli so I’m perfectly willing to believe that this is something I would have said.

Broccoli eventually got upgraded to a vegetable I’m willing to eat even if it’s not my favorite vegetable in the world. That being said, I cook a lot of broccoli. This is mostly because it doesn’t seem to have a season* and is thus always available at the grocery store. Also, my roommate really likes broccoli.

In my roommate’s perfect world all vegetables would be served lightly steamed with a little bit of salt and pepper, and possibly garlic for variety. This is to say, she doesn’t understand the glory of cauliflower & cheese, but that’s a digression for another day. Last night the broccoli was quickly cooked, and served with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I used the sauce from the stew to smother the broccoli and everyone was happy.

* I’m sure it does have a season, but please don’t tell me when it is because then I’ll feel guilty about buying imported broccoli and there’s only so much room in my life for food related guilt and I’m full up right now.

Beef Carbonnade

Dredge in flour:
3lb of stew beef

Brown meat in a pan with a little oil.

This is the most important part of the process and can’t be hurried. Don’t over crowd your pan when you brown the beef, and give it the time to really brown. I usually chop the onions and put together the liquids while I brown the beef. I find that if I stand over it and watch it I get impatient and don’t give it enough time.

According to Alton Brown the reason you brown meat is because of the Maillard reaction. For reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture this always reminds me of the Maginot Line. You have no idea how hard I tried to find a way in which one thing could be a mnemonic for the other before I admitted defeat and acknowledged that the only similarity was they are both French and start with the letter ‘M’.

3 large onions (1.5-2 lb), sliced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
sprinkle of brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter

Use the onions to scrap up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook them until they start to wilt, and then add the rest of the ingredients.

2 cups beef broth
12 oz dark beer (I usually use Guinness)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

I made the stew on Monday and reheated it on Wednesday for dinner.

The odds are good that when you reheat the stew you’re going to want to thicken the sauce a little more. If you add flour directly to the stew you’ll just end up with clumps of flour and no amount of stirring or whisking will eliminate them. The easiest way to avoid this is to put couple of tablespoons of flour in a bowl and add about twice as much liquid from the stew. Whisk the flour and the liquid together until it forms a loose slurry. Then stir that back into the stew. Simmer for 15-20 minutes to lose the raw flour taste and to allow the sauce to thicken.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes because I like the way that mashed potatoes hold the sauce, but you can use egg noodles, boiled potatoes, bread or anything else that will soak up sauce.

And, for dessert . . . .

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding
Whisk together:
2 cups half-and-half
15 oz pumpkin puree
1 cup + 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp vanilla

Mix in:
10 cups (12 oz) egg bread, diced
½ cup raisins

Allow bread to soak up liquid for 15 minutes before baking at 350 for 40 minutes.

Caramel Sauce
Melt together:
1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar
½ cup butter

½ cup whipping cream

Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is smooth (about 3 minutes).

The first year I made this I did it without the sauce. This was a mistake.



  1. Stupid Question #1
    What exactly is “egg bread”? Is this something one buys like egg bagels or egg matzoh or potato bread? Or is this something one creates (by, say, soaking white bread in eggs)?

    Stupid Question #2
    Is the whipping cream part of the caramel sauce, or was there a separate thing of whipping cream that I totally missed last night?

    Obvious Comment #1
    The first year I made this I did it without the sauce. This was a mistake.

    Yes, yes it was. (Wait, does this mean you’ve made it 3 times now? this would explain why I don’t remember the first time.)

  2. Answer #1:
    Egg bread is bread made with eggs. Usually I use challah.

    Answer #2:
    The whipping cream is part of the sauce. You melt the butter and sugar together and then add the cream and heat all of it together (stirring) until the sugar dissolves.

    Comment #1:
    I think yes, three maybe four times. I don’t think I ever made it at Manderley.

  3. […] Recipe previously given:  Birthday Stew […]

  4. […] Recipe previously given: Birthday Stew […]

  5. […] Recipe previously given:  Birthday Stew […]

  6. […] me). You could leave out the vegetables all together and add a lot more onions and you’d have Carbonnade. The recipe below is really just a base that you can manipulate anyway you like depending on your […]

  7. […] classic Beef Carbonnade is made with a dark beer (I usually use Guinness), you want something a little lighter for the […]

  8. […] all be eating lab grown meats and liking it? 20 years ago I wouldn’t have said I’d count broccoli among my favorite foods, so stranger things have […]

  9. […] Recipe previously given:  Birthday Stew […]

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