When I brought home a secondhand copy of The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken, my son said, “But you don’t hate to cook.” No, I don’t — otherwise I’d never have taken this job — but I like to read books that make me laugh, and this one is full of chapters like “Potluck Suppers: Or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade.” Besides, we all have days when we hate to take the time to cook, or we’d like to but just can’t. Sounds like today. What a coincidence.
Anyway, that’s where I got the recipe that’s the basis for this one. The original, from the 1960 first edition, called for tomato, cream of mushroom, or cream of celery soup, and five hours’ cooking at 275℉. (It was called Stayabed Stew and somewhat played to the stereotype of the homemaker lounging around eating candy and reading a mystery, though Peg Bracken also noted it was good for days when she was just plain sick.)
Some things have changed since 1960, others not so much. Campbell’s soup is still going strong and serving up a multitude of cooking shortcuts. It’s branched out into flavors like Golden Mushroom, which is a much better color for beef stew and adds a touch of elegance with the mushrooms. (It’s also low in fat, made without artificial flavors or colors, and comes in a low sodium version.)
Also, for some reason I don’t know and am not sure I want to know, stewing beef cooks more quickly these days. The first time I made the original recipe it was ready way ahead of time. The 50th anniversary edition of The I Hate to Cook Book has shortened the cooking time, and for my own version of this dish, I’ve shortened it even more.
The original also had optional canned peas. Can you even get those anymore? I wouldn’t know, I hated them even back when everyone else saw nothing wrong with them. Frozen peas taste better, but if you want them or any vegetables to keep their bright color, it might be better to cook them separately and add just before serving.
You can thin the soup with wine instead of water for extra taste.
- 1-1/2 pounds stewing beef cubes
- 1 can golden mushroom soup
- 1 large potato
- 1 cup frozen vegetables (your choice, but peas, carrots, or both are good)
- Peel and slice the potato.
- Put beef, potato, and vegetables into a lidded ovenproof dish.
- Mix the soup with half a can of water. Pour over other ingredients.
- Cover and bake at 300℉ for 1-½ hours or until beef is tender.