Stewing meat is a cooking method that has been older than virtually any other type of cooking. From the first time man made fire, almosta instantly he learned how to slow cook meat over low fire for extended periods of time.
The very first written record of stew being cooked is found in The Old Testament. In Genesis, Eau, with Jacob, his brother trades their father’s dowry for a dish of stewed meat. The texts specified that it is only a stew of lentils, but other texts throughout the Old testament have clear indications that that Esau and Jacob ate stew with meat.
Some Roman writings also exist mentioning stews. These stews were mostly made of lamb and fist.
The 14th century French epicure, Taillevent, also alludes to beef stew in a recipe for the first time in modern history. The recipe was called ragout, a braised dish wherein the main ingredient is beef (bovine or cattle meat). Since then, hundreds of beef stew recipes have appeared all across the globe.
In America, stews include Brunswick Stew, chili stew (both Texas-style and with ) beans, and Burgoo. While they may be fully Americanized now, all these stews have culinary roots from abroad.
What Makes Up a “Beef Stew”
The two main requirements for a dish to be called “beef stew” is that first, it must be cooked in a pot with a liquid base over direct flame, and second, it must have beef as it’s main ingredient. Other prerequisites include the dish’s geography, tradition, and the recipe’s details.
An American beef stew usually uses cust of meat like shoulder meat or spare ribs which are less tender. Water (or stock) and vegetables then will be added, and the stew will simmer for long hours till the beef Is cooked through and through and tender.
One quintessentially American style of stew is beef chili. Beef chili usually has a liquid base with crushed tomatoes, but varieties also exist from there. Texas style chili on the other hand usually doesn’t have beans and is made chunkier with cuts of steak in place of ground beef. Other versions always have beans.
Burgoo, a Kentucky beef stew in contrast is originally made with squirrel or rabbit meat, but now it is almost always made with bovine meat or beef.
Beef Stews from All over the World
Geographcal location plays a big role in how beef stews are made from different regions. In areas where cold season is longer, it is very common to find different stew recipes in great abundance. These beef stews will usually be thicker in sauce, cooked longer, and have heavier or more flavorful ingredients.
In areas that have warmer climate, stews will be a lot spicier in flavor for inducing perspiration (in order to help cool the body).
In some areas, beef stews aren’t really “stews”, for instance in Emilia Romagna. Emilia Romagna is an area in northern Italy, the home of Bolognese sauce. Stews in Emilia Romagna are essentially a sub-type of beef stew served with any kind of pasta. Burgundy, on the other hand is an area in France known for their luxurious wines. Burgundy is very famous for their trademark stew, Beef Bourguignonne.
Authentic Beef Stew
Cooking stew is a practice that requires patience. It is a known idea that if you give stew a longer cooking time, then it will taste better and better throughout the process.
Stews were first cooked in the working class kitchens but nowadays, you will find them as a staple on the menus of high-class restaurants. Their origins though remain humble and up to now these dishes are still made at home with tougher, cheaper cuts of beef for better flavor. While very flavorful, these tough cuts of beef do not cook very well over high heat for shorter times but when simmered over low heat for longer hours, the meat fibers will break down, become tenderized and easier to chew, all the while still maintaining the meat’s flavor.
It is also common knowledge that all these different types of stews are even (in taste and texture) the second or third day after cooking them. By then the ingredients have already melded very well with each other.
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