How To Dig In: Dutch Oven Beef Stew
If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.
Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so, one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?
Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.
It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.
So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!
Here to Stay!
Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.
And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.
An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted, had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true, I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.
I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.
That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.
Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!
Your post made me want to go out and buy the ingredients for beef stew. I would cook it in my slow cooker to have at the end of a long day. We are in our rainy season in Portland so it would be a very comforting meal. Well done!
March 24, 2016 at 8:24 am
Well ain’t nothing wrong with slow cooker stew. Yum!! A perfect tool for long, rainy, Oregon days. I hope you can make it happen! Thanks!
March 24, 2016 at 8:26 am
I appreciate the use and exploration of the phrase “digging in”. Word play is almost as fun as grilling, if you ask me. I also appreciate the dutch oven technique, which is yet another culinary adventure I need to attempt. Thanks for the good words and vision of Spring. Delicious.
March 24, 2016 at 11:07 am
Thanks Todd. I think you would enjoy the Dutch oven arts. Dutch ovens are to cooking what Black Sabbath is to your concert sorties. Or something like that. You know what I mean.
Bust out that grill, man, you’ve waited long enough now. It’s spring!
March 24, 2016 at 9:53 pm
Stew looks great!
Your line “…Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up.” made me laugh out loud. I was convinced that the store clerks spent their evenings puncturing the foil covers, after tossing out 3 cartons of broth. As I was putting on my coat, with the intent of heading back to the store to complain to the store manager, my husband pointed out the diagram on top of the cartoon. Happy to know I wasn’t the only one to get caught in that design flaw.
March 24, 2016 at 6:53 pm
Ha! That’s funny. It is a design flaw, cause many a good carton of broth has been trivially wasted. Great to hear you don’t pay attention to diagrams too. I do feel better now. It’s like, we’re not alone any more. We can speak up about the funky broth carton design and not be judged! I’m glad you chimed in. Thank you!
March 24, 2016 at 9:44 pm
A Cast Iron Dutch Oven nestled into a bed of coals, the ORIGINAL Slow-Cooker I’d say. Well done, yet again my friend.
March 24, 2016 at 7:17 pm
You know it Auntiedoni! It don’t get no better than a dutch oven over a good bed of coals. I think if I could only have one cooking vessel , the original slow cooker would be it. Love them things.
March 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm
Another lovely, descriptive and thoughtful post. Lovely stew too.
March 25, 2016 at 3:34 am
Many thanks, Conor. Happy Easter to you, likewise !
March 25, 2016 at 9:31 am
ROFL, I can only imagine the on my wife’s face if I sat a tent up next to my pit. I would of course have to follow the look with “Hon, this is gonna be one long cook!”
March 25, 2016 at 6:46 am
I hear you. It is a tactical gamble if the why will pop her head out or not. Mine was away for most of the day, so I got away with it pretty good, lest she reads this archive. But such antics are nothing new to her. I set up my tent in the bedroom the other day, and she caught me at that. So yeah.
Yeah this beef stew cook was actually inspired by your beef stew. I just admired the day you had there, I sought to recreate it something similar myself!
March 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm
Reminds me of the time mine found me trying my new fishing lures in the bathtub.
March 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm
That’s brilliant! Thanks for the idea!
March 25, 2016 at 5:09 pm
Gosh, I cannot imagine just how good that stew is with grilled meat…. Yum!
HAPPY EASTER POTP!
March 25, 2016 at 7:22 am
Yup, it had that tint of woodsmoke grilled taste that you only get cooking outside like that. Very good. We wish you a Happy Easter too, and to David too. Even His Royal Highness! Bless you guys!
March 25, 2016 at 9:34 am
Thanks from all of us on the mountain! 😊
March 25, 2016 at 9:35 am
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March 26, 2016 at 2:37 am
Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser and commented:
Use Kosher Beef and Beef Stock
March 27, 2016 at 6:12 am
Yum…Yum…Yum. I love stew and this one looks delicious 🙂
April 4, 2016 at 3:29 am
One of my favorites PotP. I do this in my smoker with my 9 quart Lodge DO. I smoke my beef with a healthy dose of pecan smoke before adding the rest of the ingredients for the long, slow, simmer. Looks great!
April 9, 2016 at 10:18 am
Yeah that’s the good living right there, Bill. So tasty. I will have to try it with pecan smoke my next go around. The more I use it, the more I’m convinced you really can’t go wrong with pecan wood. Seems to work great for everything.
Take care, Bill!
April 10, 2016 at 8:16 pm
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You are quite the talented writer. Love your work. I could smell the wood smoke and when I read the “manly beverage” for some reason I got a vision of Radar from Mash drinking a Nehi grape soda. LOL
December 29, 2016 at 10:07 pm
You’re not far off. It was probably a Diet Coke ! Yup, that’s about as manly as I get most days.
December 29, 2016 at 10:10 pm