Courthouse Cafe Beef Stew

  • Prep Time
    45 mintues
  • Cook Time
    2 or 3 hours
  • Serving
  • View

I grew up in Anniston Alabama and there was a little cafe around the corner from the courthouse that served lunch to lawyers, judges and people who worked downtown during the day.  I loved the beef stew!  It was simple, beefy and loaded with big chunks of carrots and potatoes.  I think I have successfully replicated its homey taste in this super easy recipe.  And while it would be great on a cold wintery night, it was equally comforting on a rainy Spring Saturday night when I wanted to put something together that could cook slowly while I watched the last few episodes of The Diplomat with Kerri Russell.  You HAVE to watch that, by the way!  Below is a picture of the Calhoun County Courthouse.  It really is a beautiful building built in 1900 in the Neoclassical style.  A jail annex was added in the 1920s and the clock tower was renovated after a fire in the 1930s.  I’m not sure when the Courthouse Cafe opened but as far as I was concerned when I worked in downtown Anniston in the 1970s it was an integral part of the local judicial system!  This recipe is not as complex and sophisticated as Boeuf Bourguignon but it is every bit as satisfying and delicious.


Beef Stew


    A couple of notes: I used McCormick Beef Stew seasoning which is pretty salty. You could make your own seasoning mix with onion power, garlic powder, thyme and rosemary. But, I liked the taste of the seasoning, and the extra glug of Heinz chili sauce added the additional tomatoey spicy flavor I was looking for. The other thing to remember is that when you add the vegetables you want to cook the stew until the potatoes and carrots are soft but not mushy. So, that might take 30 minutes and it might take an hour, depending on several factors like the heat of your oven, the size of the vegetables, etc. TEST YOUR STEW while it is cooking and then cook it until you are happy with the texture and doneness of the meat and vegetables. ABOUT THE OVEN TEMPERATURE. Start it at 350 degrees and if your stew is boiling too hard reduce the temp to 335 degrees or thereabouts.

    Step 1

    Cut the beef chuck into big chunks. Toss the chunks in flour that is seasoned with salt and pepper.

    Step 2

    Pour a swirl of olive oil into a big Dutch oven, over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beef cubes. Cook until the beef is brown, and you get a good caramelization on the meat. Give the beef cubes a good stir every once and a while. ADD THE MCCORMICK SEASONING and stir.

    Step 3

    You should have a good fond on the bottom of the pot. Now add the beef stock. Add about 16 ounces, or enough to cover the meat. Then add about two good glugs of the Heinz chili sauce, about 1/4 cup, and stir again. This should be 2 or 3 inches of liquid in the Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf. Put the pot in the oven, covered. Braise for about an hour. See note above about oven temp. I started the stew at 350 degrees but when I checked it, it was boiling too hard so I reduced the temp to 330 degrees for a while.

    Step 4

    When the beef is tender (after about an hour) and you have a dark glossy sauce, add the vegetables. You don't have to pre-cook them, but you can par-boil the potatoes if you want to. Just don't overcook the potatoes. I find that the challenge from this point is to get the carrots and potatoes cooked properly at the same time. It's easy to overcook the potatoes!

    Step 5

    Cook the stew, covered, for thirty minutes to an hour. Adjust the oven temp if necessary. Check on the stew every so often and remove when the potatoes are done (and before they are mushy).

    Step 6

    Serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a glass of good red wine!

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