James Morgan’s Texas Cattle Drive Wrangler Stew

Great grandfather James Allison Morgan was a real Texas Wrangler in the late 1880s and early 1900s. He taught his son-in-law (my maternal grandfather, a chef/cook in the Navy Seabees and later in Abilene), Bassett Arthur, how to make Texas Wrangler Stew.

Just about every bite features generous chunks of earthy, wholesome potatoes and onions, juicy seared beef, and tender vegetables. Savory, rich, and meaty with a few notes of sweetness and dark beer, this stew fends off the chilliest of days with good old-fashioned flavors.

Here’s the basic recipe, modernized a bit, for this hearty meal.

Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

recipe image


• 3 pounds beef chuck roast, boneless, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch thick pieces

• salt and pepper, to taste

• 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if desired

• 2 medium-sized yellow onions, chopped

• 1 tablespoon garlic, minced

• 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into thick slices

• 2 celery stalks, chopped into thick pieces

• 4 large potatoes, quartered• 1/4 cup plain flour

• 1 1/2 cups dry stout beer, such as Guinness, or dark beer of choice

• 3 tablespoons tomato paste

• 1 tablespoon brown sugar, optional

• 4 cups beef broth or stock

• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional garnish)

• mashed potatoes, for serving


Step 1

Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Step 2

Then, thoroughly season the beef with salt and pepper. You’ll want to be generous as you are only seasoning the surface of the meat.

Step 3

Heat the oil over medium-high heat, in a heavy-based, oven-proof pot (or a dutch oven).

Step 4

Sear the beef in batches of 3 or 4, until browned on both sides. Then, move the beef to a warm plate.

Step 5

Add the garlic and onion to the pan juices, sautéing until transparent and soft. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, as it easily can if sautéd for too long.

Step 6

Add in the celery, carrots, and potatoes, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Stir the flour into the vegetables and potatoes, evenly coating them. The flour helps to thicken the stew down the line.

Step 7

Stirring occasionally, cook for 2 minutes more. The raw flour smell should disappear. Pour in the dry stout or dark beer, mixing well to dissolve the flour.

Step 8

Then add in the brown sugar (if using), tomato paste, thyme, and broth, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. These brown bits, called fond, help deepen the meaty flavors of soups and stews when incorporated into the broth.

Step 9

Bring the stew to a simmer, cooking until slightly thickened, for about 5 minutes. Return the beef back into the pot along with any juices.

Step 10

Cover the pot partially, then move to the oven and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove it from the oven twice during the cooking process to give it a good stir, then return it to the oven still partially covered.

Step 11

After the stew has finished cooking, cautiously remove from the oven, then season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Step 12

Serve with mashed potatoes and garnish with parsley, if desired.

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