Tutu’s Hawaiian Beef Stew
I had the honor of cooking for my niece Hoku Mama Swamp’s Tutu on my visit to Oahu. I happily excepted the roll of sous chef as the matriarch of the family shared her recipe for Hawaiian Stew with me. She gave me directions as she reclined in the main room watching her stories on TV.
Tutu shared a lot about her past on the island where her family has many generations of roots. The years she spent hostessing and tending bar for some of Hollywood’s elite during the mid-fifties and sixties on Waikiki stand out as the highlight of our cooking conversation. She had many stories about the visiting Tinsel Town royalty when Pan Am was in full swing flying people to Waikiki to tell. I asked her who was a great tipper – she responded that Frank Sinatra was best and ranked Liz Taylor & Richard Burton at the bottom. She said Desi & Lucy were frequent visitors. And, after Lucy and the kids went to bed – Desi would come back downstairs to the bar to continue partying well into the night. I got to thumb through some of her old family photo albums in between chopping and stirring. And they were chocked full of beautiful images of old Waikiki.
Tutu would occasionally come into the kitchen to make sure I was chopping the meat properly – “not too small and not too big”, and that I had added enough salt – “not too much and not too little” – she also made sure that the flame was “not too high and not too low”. .
She approved of my knife skills and we ended up making enough stew for at least 25 people – something I had no problem in doing. When I questioned what made the stew Hawaiian – she replied “the salt”.
Tutu’s Hawaiian Beef Stew
7-8 pounds bone-in chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 Tbls vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, diced
8 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
4 cans of tomato sauce
2 cans of chicken stock
6 medium potatoes, each peeled and cut into eight pieces
8 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
Hawaiian ‘Alaea Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven heat oil to medium-high. Add the meat and bones and cook until they begin to brown. Stir in the onions and garlic and cover – continuing to cook until the onions are translucent, about 20 minutes. Tutu likes when the meat is swimming in its own juices – this is when the flavor she likes is being built and adds to the beginning of the sauce. Next, season with a little Hawaiian salt and black pepper. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock and bring to a boil – then lower to a simmer and cook covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the meat is fork tender – about another hour.
Serve over steamed white or brown rice.