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Eat This While you Read That: Brad Torgerson

I’ve enjoyed Brad’s work for some time now, before I’d read his fiction. His puckish sense of humor and reasoned approach to the world, I discovered, hold true in his fictional works as well as his blog. I highly recommend The Chaplain’s War for science fiction with that rare element, faith. But the book you really ought to pick up and read with this meal is Racers of the Night, a collection of his short stories. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s the one Brad asked me to feature. Secondly, this is the rare recipe for beef stew that doesn’t take all day to create, you can have this one on the table in less than an hour.

racers of the night

Beef stew is a staple at our house, during the cold months, and even sometimes on a rainy day in summer. For us, as I am sure for you, it’s constantly changing. I don’t go and shop for special ingredients: I use what I have on hand. If that means the veg changes from pot to pot, then it just keeps the meal interesting. I tackled this pot of stew with that in mind, and made a few changes. I’ve been asking my author acquaintances and friends simply for the name of a dish, and most generously take the time to give me a recipe, Brad was no exception. He started out by telling me this is an old family recipe…

Torgersens’ Poor Boy Beef Soup

Beef stew recipe

Beef Soup ala Torgerson

Ingredients:

  • Beef stew starter packet (1 for small batch, 2 for large)
  • Lean ground beef (1.5 lbs for small batch, 3 lbs for large)
  • Frozen mixed veggies (small bag, or large bag)
  • Onion (yellow or white, small or large)
  • Beef bullion cube (1 or 2)
  • Potatoes (3 to 5 small, or 2 to 3 large russet)
  • Ordinary table salt and table pepper

Extras if you feel like it:

  • Red, yellow, or green bell peppers
  • Whole carrots

Directions:

1 – Dice or julienne onion into a bowl.

2 – Wash potatoes, dice; with skins left on.

3 – Dice or slice extras into bowls.

4 – Brown & turn he ground beef; rinse off fat in hot water.

5 – Throw browned ground beef into large cook pot.

6 – Throw diced potatoes on top of the beef.

7 – Throw frozen mixed veggies on top of potatoes.

8 – Throw on onions and extras.

9 – Pour in tap water until contents adequately submerged.

10 – Slowly stir in beef stew packet(s).

11 – Ensure contents are well-mixed and homogeneous.

12 – Bring soup to a boil on stove top.

13 – Set simmering for 30 minutes.

14 – Salt and pepper to taste; add bullion if you want.

15 – Simmer for additional 30 minutes.

16 – Turn off burner; let cool for 20 minutes.

17 – SERVE! Ideally suited to a side of french bread, sliced, with butter. Multi-grain also works well.

Stew and biscuits

A nice thick stew and cheese biscuits on the side.

Cedar’s Notes: I realized about the time I started cooking that I hadn’t picked up potatoes (we don’t eat them often) but I did have a nice large parsnip, so I did a straight substitution. I also used up some ground beef, rather than stew beef. I had to ask my First Reader what a beef stew packet was, I’d never heard of it. Seems they are a handy way to thicken the stew, the main ingredient on the packet I got was cornstarch, followed by brown sugar.

I prepared this on the stovetop, my slowcooker hasn’t got a ‘high’ setting. I did sauté the onions and add some garlic to the recipe, as we’re fond of it.

onions and garlic

Sautéing onions and garlic releases a lot of flavor for the meal.

I do think that the French Bread would be a nice accompaniment for this meal, but I started too late in the day for proper rising and baking. So I had this recipe I wanted to try, and it seemed to be a good pairing for this meal. The First Reader took one look at what I’d made and informed me I’d re-invented cheese biscuits. In cooking, as in fiction, there are no original ideas, only new twists on old plots.

Cheese Biscuits

  • 4 oz shredded or powdered Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 oz finely shredded cheddar
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400degF. Whisk together the wet ingredients, then fold in the cheese. Slowly whisk in the flour. Spoon into mini muffin tin, makes about 24. Bake for about 10 min, until tops bounce back when pressed.  They are very rich and dense.

Cheese Biscuits

Cheese biscuits

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About Cedar Sanderson

Writer, mother, reader, gardener, cook… artist.

7 comments on “Eat This While you Read That: Brad Torgerson

  1. If you’re just covering the ingredients with water (and want the stew beef to stay on the bottom), stirring the pot can be problematic. I usually put the stew mix packet in a bottle, mix with water, and shake vigorously before adding it – makes things nice and even.

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  2. I don’t see kosher “beef stew starter” anywhere, so I think I’ll try this recipe & substitute something like this “Beef Flavor Soup Mix” (salt, corn starch, dehydrated veggies, etc.—no actual beef). About how big is a single packet of stew starter?

    From “I also used up some ground beef, rather than stew beef” I gather that Brad’s version called for un-ground stew beef; is that right?

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  3. I think there is probably MSG in the flavoring packets (as there also is in bouillon), so it might be best to make it from scratch anyway.

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  4. You could skip the bullion cubes and use beef stock or broth for some or all of the water. If the main purpose of the stew packets is thickening just use a cornstarch or flour slurry instead. Or just take equal parts of butter and flour, melt the butter, add the flour and cook until the mixture browns slightly. Adding it to the pot will thicken things nicely. It’s stew so the whole point is cooking available ingredients until the flavors blend and you have a bowl of rich filling tasty food.

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  5. Wouldn’t that be Torgersens’ Poor Non-Gendered Beef Soup?

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