Recipe: Sinner’s Stew

You are now going to make beef stew. With short ribs.

Don’t argue with me.

We don’t have time for your mewling pleas and jibbering jabbers. The Devil and his consort will be here soon. For dinner. And they expect to be fed, by golly. What are you going to tell him? Are you going to look jolly ol’ Lucifer in the eye and say, “Hey, sorry, Lucy old chap, I was too busy playing with the genitals god gave me and thus have declined to provide a meal for you and your lovely centaur trollop?”

Yes. That’s right. The Devil has a thing for centaur ladies.

Don’t judge.

So, let’s get on with the stew, then.

This is what I’m calling a Sinner’s Stew because it contains three of my vices:

a) Coffee

b) Beer

c) Whisky.

Here’s how we begin:

Get a pot. Or a dutch oven if you like to go that way but I just used a heavy stainless steel pot. Because that’s how I do. Into the pot you want to put your favorite fat product.

I used duck fat. Because duck fat is fucking phenomenal. You could also use bacon renderings. That, by the way, will be the name of my memoir: “Bacon Renderings: The Chizzy Wangdang Story.” Because at the time of the memoir’s publication, I will have renamed myself to “Chizzy Wangdang” in order to facilitate my rebirth as an icon of the literary scene: a true darling of artists and weirdos the world around.

Whatever.

Get six short ribs.

Bone-in. And not just because it’s funny to say “bone-in” and then lasciviously wink at the person to whom you’re speaking, but because bone-in meats tend to preserve and add flavor.

As a sidenote, short ribs are awesome because they’re basically BRICKS OF MEAT. Seriously. One day I want to build a house out of short ribs and then, before it goes south, have me and a couple buddies with flamethrowers burn the house down, which is to say, cook all of that delicious meat. Then I’ll invite the whole town over and we’ll all have a big meathouse meal. And then any of the children that show up will end up captured and thrown into my oven because HA HA SUCKERS I’M ACTUALLY THE WITCH FROM THE HANSEL AND GRETEL STORIES.

I should really cut it out with the caps lock. But it’s just so engaging!

Anyway.

Dust the short ribs with flour, salt, pepper, smoked sweet paprika, and garlic powder.

Brown the meat-bricks in the bubbling fatty goodness.

Once you’re done with that, make sure that you get rid of all but say, a tablespoon of the fat in the pot.

Make sure the meat is firmly sequestered in the bottom of the pot (“meat sequestered in the bottom?”) and now it’s time to start adding some liquids.

Add to the pot:

One cup of black coffee.

One bottle of your favorite beer. I used a Troeg’s amber ale.

Three cups of chicken — yes, chicken, shut up — broth.

Now. Stop for a moment. We need to talk about:

The bitterness problem.

Beer and coffee (no, we have not yet added our whisky) contribute bitterness. The beer more than the coffee. Both the alcohol content and hoppiness of the beer (by the way, beer needs a better word than “hoppy,” because that sounds like it has something to do with happy rabbits or is perhaps the name of the Easter Bunny or some shit) can turn your stew bitter. That’s a no-no.

I mean, unless you like that sort of thing?

Weirdo.

We must combat bitterness at multiple stages.

First thing to do, right now:

Boil it. Get a good rolling boil. Boil it for like, three straight minutes. Let the alkiehall cook the fuck off and dissipate into the atmosphere where the booze molecules drift to heaven and get the angels drunk.

Now, drop the temp back down and add some other bitterness-battlers:

Two TBs of Worcestershire sauce, which few seem to realize is actually just fish sauce.

One TB of sugar.

Two TBs each of cider vinegar and red wine vinegar.

And, finally, 1/4c of ketchup.

Toss in your spices while we’re sitting here: a palm full of salt, a dash of pepper, a second dash of cayenne pepper, a dash of smoked sweet paprika, a dash of hot Hungarian paprika, a double-doggy-dash of garlic powder, a Bay leaf (which you will rescue from the broth and not eat), a bundle of fresh thyme bound up and also rescued from the broth (or you could just use the powdered stuff, shut up), a pinch of sage, a pinch of tarragon, and there you go.

Stir. Make sure it boils again. Simmer now for two hours.

What to do during those two hours?

The world is your story-book, friend. Jump a motorcycle over the corpses of slain giants? Hang-glide into a dragon’s butthole? Slay the Dread Humbaba as he reclines and watches CSI: Mesopotamia?

Somewhere in there, though, you ought to chop some vegetables:

Three to five carrots, depending on size.

Three to five celery ribs, depending on size.

One pint of mushrooms.

One medium-sized sweet onion.

Obviously, you’re a human with free will, despite all efforts of mine to shackle your mind and soul and force you to act only at my whim and command, so that means you may choose to incorporate other items into the stew. Potatoes would not be remiss, obviously. Maybe cauliflower. Or peas. Or pee. Or the blood of the last existing dodo bird, wrung from its still-warm body after you brained it with a skillet.

That’s on you, Pikachu.

Here’s where it gets a little crazy and we once again try to battle back the beast of bitterness —

Get yourself ten prunes.

Or, if you don’t like that term, “dried plums.”

(Though they are, of course, the same thing.)

Choppity-chop.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t this turn the broth into a diarrhea stew? I don’t need a stew that helps me move my bowels, thanks.” It does not. I don’t know if the colonic irritant in prunes is cooked off, but I do know that ten prunes in a giant pot of stew does not a turbid diarrhea soup make. If you’re really weird about it, try some other dry fruit: apricots, maybe?

(The fruit breaks down and almost disappears into the broth.)

Your house by now will be smelling delightful. You may have attracted a small herd of wandering raccoons or some curious and starving neighbors. Beat them back with a rake. Or, do like I do: pepper lawn with Bouncing Betty landmines. That sets a precedent and eventually all trespassers (many without legs!) learn not to come fumbling about your private property.

After your two hours are up, all the choppity-chopped veggies (and prunes!) go into the gurgling broth. Oh! Remove the meat first. Put it on a cutting board. Bring the newly-enveggienated stew to a boil and as you do so, it’s time to pop the bones out of that meat and start pulling apart the short ribby goodness. Chop it when necessary — some of the connective tissue may not yet be broken down. (If any of it seems truly stubborn, you can just remove the turgid tissue and toss that shiznit right in the trizzash — er, the trash. Just make sure to not lose any of the actual meaty deliciousness.)

Put meat back into the stew and, at the same time, rescue the thyme bundle and the Bay leaf.

Next step deserves all caps:

NOW IS THE TIME OF WHISKY.

Take a shot.

No, I mean — you take a shot.

(Actually, if you’re like me, you’ve probably already been drinking this whole time. Good for you. Also, if you’re like me, you’ve probably already soiled yourself. Not so good for you. Or for me. Just call the school nurse, they’re supposed to have some extra pants on hand for incontinent drunks like you and me.)

Now take another shot —

And pour this one into the stew.

The choice of whisky is yours but I followed the suggestions of one Mister Stephen “Snack Whore” Blackmoore and went straight for the beautiful bottle of Laphroaig Scotch on my shelf.

The Laphroaig contributes that peaty smoky goodness. Which you’ll also get from Lagavulin. Or, if you’re really living on the edge, a shot of Mezcal. (I’d think Mezcal would be better in chili, though. Hm.)

Once more, boil for two minutes.

Now simmer for a half-hour.

Somewhere in here taste the stew. You want to make sure the bitterness factor has gone well and truly away — but, if it hasn’t, you want to get ahead of that problem. A little more vinegar, sugar, maybe broth. Keep tasting and dicking around with it until that acrid tang has gone from the back of your tongue.

The Devil doesn’t like a bitter stew.

He’s sweet. Like candy.

So, there you go. That’s it. Half-hour later you’ve got a bubbling pot of meaty stewed goodness. Ladle into bowls. Feed to the Devil and his centaur prostitute. Rejoice, sinner.