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Weekend Recipe: Joe Booker Stew (Beef Stew with Dumplings)

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Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen

The reason this dish is named "Joe Booker" seems to be a mystery lost to the vicissitudes of time. It is apparently from a small town in Maine, but that's all we know. (Unless any of you know the answer! Let us know in the comments!) At any rate, here's the recipe, as perfected by America's Test Kitchen. Joe Booker Stew (Beef Stew with Dumplings)
Serves 6 to 8
8 ounces salt pork, quartered
3 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 cups water
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds rutabaga (or parsnip or turnip), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

2 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1. MICROWAVE PORK Place salt pork in bowl and microwave until fat renders and pork is golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour off fat, reserving 2 tablespoons (if you have less, supplement with vegetable oil). When pork is cool enough to handle, rinse under running water to remove excess salt. Set aside.

2. BROWN BEEF Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons reserved pork fat in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of beef until well browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with additional 2 teaspoons pork fat and remaining beef. Add remaining pork fat and onion to empty pot and cook until golden brown, about 5 -minutes. Stir in flour and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute.

3. SIMMER STEW Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot. Stir in broth, water, thyme, and rinsed salt pork and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until meat is nearly tender, about 1 hour. Remove and discard salt pork. Add potatoes, rutabaga, and carrots to pot and continue to simmer, covered, until vegetables are just tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. MAKE DUMPLINGS When vegetables are nearly tender, combine flour, baking powder, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Combine milk and butter in liquid measuring cup and microwave, stirring once or twice, until butter melts, about 1 minute. Stir warm milk mixture into flour mixture until incorporated.

5. STEAM DUMPLINGS Once vegetables are tender, use small ice cream scoop or 2 large spoons to drop golf ball-size dumplings (about 2 tablespoons) into stew (you should have about 15 dumplings). Simmer gently, covered, until dumplings have doubled in size and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The stew can be made through step 3, covered, and refrigerated for 3 days. To serve, bring stew to simmer and proceed with step 4.

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