To amateur historians of the American West, the term “cowboy stew” may conjure up images of a cauldron of bovine innards simmering over a cook fire out on the open range. That would, in fact, be sonofabitch stew, famously described as “everything but the hide, hooves, and horns” of a freshly butchered calf. Nose-to-tail eating par excellence, that delicacy is best left to the more adventurous among us. This here concoction is what you might call expurgated, fit for modern-day cow country and containing nothing more alarming than the unpredictable heat of a few glorious green chiles, at their peak now and downright de rigueur for a proper Texas stew.
Indeed, there are few things as restorative as a bubbling pot of stew, which promises hospitality in its aromatic embrace, generosity in its sheer plenitude, and comfort in its unabashed simplicity. Better yet, it requires no particular cooking prowess, nor hours of labor. As Tom Perini, Texas’s master of chuck wagon cuisine, says, “Just hang it on the fire and keep adding things.” You need only complement the innate chemistry of meat and potatoes with a bit of seasoning, a handful of veggies, and the aforementioned peppers, and you’ll be rewarded with a lush, full-bodied, stick-to-your-ribs meal.
Serves 6 to 8
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
2 pounds boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided in half
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided in half
2 large white onions, cut into 8 sections each
4 green chiles (Hatch, poblano, jalapeño), chopped
7 cups beef stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
9 red potatoes, cut in half
4 ears corn, kernels cut off
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Brown meat with half the garlic powder and cumin, then remove with a slotted spoon and put in a 6- or 8-quart stockpot. Add onions and chiles to the skillet with the remaining oil and sauté until soft. Transfer to the stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with flour tortillas.
Adapted from Texas Cowboy Cooking, by Tom Perini. Published by Time-Life Books.