Momma's Roman Stew recipe
Momma prepared this stew regularly for us because it is easy to make, it consists of simple ingredients and because it taste really good. I am not sure where or how she came about the recipe as my Momma was innovative when it came to putting food on the table for the hungry, mostly my daddy and me. But I am sure she found it or a similar version in the many magazines and TV shows of the time, the period being the same as when Julia Child was babbling about Beef Bourguignon, Jell-O encased everything in gelatin and Graham Kerr had us galloping into clarified butter as well as copious amounts of cream and fat.
Momma took the time to quickly sear the meat before slowly allowing it to braise in the delectable sauce, or gravy as daddy would've called it. Many recipes during and before this time told us to simply add raw meat to a hot liquid and if you have all day, this is fine to do. Now I doubt the authenticity of this recipe's heritage. The Romans, truth be told, probably did not use carrots, maybe cardoons was the root vegetable of choice and I am sure tomatoes were not around during this ancient period. If history is correct, the tomato came to Europe during the 16th century from South America, Peru to be exact. I'm sure the spices Momma used have changed over the years from the original version as well and I am also certain of one more fact: Red wine was indeed the acidifier used to tenderize the meat. The Romans more than likely used it as a flavored, liquid stewing base as wine was drank more-so-than water. Well, that's what today's TV shows would have us believe.
Braising: cooking technique using both dry and wet heats. Similar to 'pot-roasting' as the meat is first seared quickly over high heat and then allowed to slowly cook over low heat in a flavored liquid bath.
The braise cooking technique that tenderly turns the bits of roasts into succulent morsels was not introduced to us by the Romans either. More than likely, this cooking method came about around the same time man invented fire. Now getting back to the tomato, Momma used a can of spaghetti sauce and as I remember, it was as plain as can be. Remember, this was back in the 60’s, before we knew it as pasta sauce and way before we knew we would have to pick from four dozen types of pasta sauces in today’s grocer. In reality, a can of good crushed tomato along with the blends of Italian seasonings would do just fine in this recipe too.
about 6 servings
3 1/2 pounds chuck roast
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 -26 oz can spaghetti sauce
1 cup beef stock or water
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size
6 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 teaspoons Italian herbs (Momma used oregano, thyme and basil)
Cut roast into 1 to 1/2 inch bite-size sections and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven and quickly brown meat on both sides. Do not over crowd pot; cook in several batches if necessary. Remove meat to a bowl and spoon away all but about 1 tablespoon of oil.
Cook onions and peppers over medium heat until tender.
Return meat to the pot of vegetables. Add the wine, sauce and beef stock and increase heat to high. At simmer, reduce to low, cover and cook about 40 minutes.
Add the potatoes and carrots, the seasonings and cook at low simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Serve with crusty hot bread.