I started my hamburger stew today while talking on the phone with one of my friends, and we all got quite a chuckle when I got distracted by the computer and my friend and forgot that I had the hamburger cooking, and almost burned it. If it weren’t for the fact that I had the meat in my super-sturdy cast iron skillet, it would’ve been burnt to the core, but since the cast iron conducts heat more slowly and evenly than a regular skillet, the meal was saved, and here’s a quick tutorial on the making of a fairly frugal hamburger stew:
You should note that I made a very large batch today b/c I didn’t feel like cooking much, so I thought it would carry us through a couple of days if dh and I don’t pop back from our sinus troubles as quickly as we’d like, but you can easily cut this recipe in half for a smaller family or freeze the leftovers. Here’s the recipe:
2 lbs. hamburger
A LARGE pot filled about 1/3 of the way with water
1Tbl. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
5 beef boullion cubes
1/2 pkg. frozen peas (you can use 2 cans, but frozen don’t get as mushy)
1 pkg. frozen corn (same thing)
2 cans sliced carrots
1 can green beans (of course you can add two cans of this also, but we prefer the majority of our stew to be carrots and corn, with the peas and green beans taking a smaller role)
1/2 c. corn starch
1/3 c. COLD water
Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the FROZEN veggies and let boil for 3 minutes. After the 3 minute mark, you may add the canned veggies and their juices. Adding the frozen veggies first is important because they need to actually cook for a little while to heat up properly, whereas overcooking the canned veggies just ends in mush.
Why cornstarch and not flour you ask? Simple. Cornstarch thickens without deadening the flavor like flour often does, plus, when added correctly, it’s a lot easier to mix into a broth than flour (no clumping), and finally, cornstarch allows you to retain a certain clarity to the final sauce, gravy, or soup, whereas flour will give it a lighter, cloudier final appearance.
In a small container, place the cornstarch at the bottom, then add the cold water on top. Using a fork, mix the cornstarch with the COLD water. At first it will seem nearly impossible to stir, but as you continue to mix it, it will become smooth and milk-like in consistancy. Be sure to mix all the way to the bottom incorporating all the cornstarch into the water. It should look something like this:
The next step is adding the cornstarch to the stew, which should be done over medium-low heat at first (until you are sure of yourself when working with thickening agents), stirring QUICKLY with a wire whisk. Once you’ve added the cornstarch, you will want to make sure that you are stirring quickly, evenly, and ALL the way to the bottom, because if you don’t stir it properly, this is when your stew will stick and burn to the bottom of the pan. Obviously, I didn’t get a picture of the stew while I was furiously stirring it, lol. The important thing to understand if you are unfamiliar with thickening agents is that you won’t truly know how thick your sauce, soup, or gravy will be until it comes to a FULL boil, so don’t judge too quickly that it’s not working. If it does, however, come to a full boil and still doesn’t seem to be thickening the way you would like, try mixing up another couple Tablespoons of cornstarch with a touch of water, mix, and add it, bringing again to a full boil before deciding whether you need to add more thickening agent.
When finished, your stew may look something like this (Note: it makes a huge batch, and I actually had to split it into two different pans to have enough room for all the ingredients, so this is the smaller pan pictured):