Beef Stew – The Ultimate Comfort Food

by | Feb 8, 2011 | Beef, Dutch Oven Cooking, Main Dishes, Recipes

For weeks my friends and family in Texas, the midwest, and the east coast have been posting on Facebook their fears and concerns about the big storms coming, the record low temperatures, and pictures of their homes and neighborhoods covered in snow.  Although we have been experiencing record high temperatures here in the Bay Area for the last few weeks, it was sympathy cooking that drove me to make beef stew on Saturday. For me there is nothing more comforting on a cold blustery day than a good beef stew.

I have a favorite stew recipe that I make in a large cast iron dutch oven. It’s a very simple recipe and can be made for a fairly large gathering. I can also put it in the oven in the morning and forget about it until it’s time to eat. I received this recipe from a former coworker, Sue Wolfe, who grew up in Coalinga, California (home of the Harris Ranch feedlot–for you non-ranching folks, that’s the stinky place on I-5 with the cows). This recipe is one of Sue’s favorite comfort foods and a family recipe that has been handed down through the generations. She loves potatoes and carrots and always ends up overstuffing her Dutch oven with them.

Comforting beef stew

All of the ingredients you will need to make the stew

Coalinga Beef Stew

– Serves 8

The amounts of vegetables listed are just suggested amounts and can be adjusted to your preference.


  • 6 russet potatoes
  • 8 carrots, cut in thirds and then sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 – 1 sliced onion (amount depends on your taste)
  • 3 chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cubed slice of bread
  • 4 tablespoons uncooked tapioca
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into pieces
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes


Preheat oven to 250° F. Combine the cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, sliced onion, and chopped celery into a large Dutch oven. Top with tapioca, sugar, and bread cubes. Add the stew meat by distributing it evenly over the top of the vegetables and then cover with the stewed tomatoes. Put in the 250º F oven for 6 hours.  Stir after three hours and then occasionally until done.

If you add the ingredients in the order listed above, then stirring during cooking is less necessary (you can put it in the oven with the start timer and don’t have to worry about going home to stir it if you are working). However, if you forget to add the tapioca and put it in on top, you will need to stir it while cooking, otherwise you end up with the stew the wrong consistency and all the tapioca stuck to the lid.

All of the ingredients in the dutch oven and ready to go into the oven.

The term “comfort food” (first used, according to Webster’s Dictionary, in 1977) refers to foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive. ~Wikipedia

Hoping this stew can be of comfort to others,