I’m pretty sure you never saw this recipe before. My mother made “Hamburger Stew” all the time and said that her grandmother, who lived with them, made it, although she also said that her grandmother wouldn’t allow her to be in the kitchen to learn from her. Regardless, she did learn this recipe. It strikes me as the kind of recipe that would come out of the Depression they lived through. It’s a very basic meat and potatoes dish, and although I could think of ways to update it, I’d just rather have it always taste the way it always tasted.
What makes this dish different from any similarly-named dish you’ll find on the web, is that the hamburger is in the form of hamburger patties, and they sit at the bottom of the stew vegetables that are layered according to which ones need the most cooking. Kind of an odd arrangement, but it does portion out the meat, as well as give the sense of more substantial pieces of meat than just browned ground beef.
The ingredients couldn’t be simpler—ground beef, onions, carrots, potatoes. Maybe bacon. Apparently my great grandmother often cooked bacon in the pan first, as she apparently also did with tomato sauce, but I don’t think my mother did that, or if she did, it was seldom. It was just a step she told me about. I usually don’t use the bacon, either, but I think I will cook two pieces today before browning the burgers.
Optional: 2-3 slices bacon, browned
1 lb ground beef, shaped into four patties, seasoned with salt & pepper
1 onion, sliced
4 large carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
salt & pepper to taste—season each layer of the dish
2 cups water
4 tablespoons flour for thickening, mixed with a small amount of water
- If using bacon, brown the bacon in a dutch oven and remove. I guess you could crumble the bacon into the finished dish, but I’m just using the bacon fat in this step.
- Brown the hamburger patties in the bacon fat over medium-high heat. This is the only flavoring for the gravy, so browning is important.
- Sprinkle the sliced onions over the burgers.
- Add all the carrots in a layer over the onions. Season. The carrots take longer to cook than the potatoes, so they need to be closer to the bottom of the paan.
- Add the sliced potatoes in an even layer over the carrots. Season.
- JUST ADD WATER. Hard to believe, but that’s all that is ever added to this dish, 2 cups water. An obvious addition would be beef stock or bouillon, but it always tasted fine to me.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and simmer for about a half hour, checking sooner to see if the carrots are done.
- Remove the vegetables to a bowl with a large slotted spoon and the burgers to a plate or on top of the vegetables. Thicken the liquid in the pot with a flour/water mixture and pour over the vegetables.
My mother had an aluminum shaker in which she always mixed flour and water. I don’t ever remember her using cornstarch. That shaker always worked well, leaving no lumps. This Ovaltine shaker on Etsy looks very much like the one we had, but ours had no brand name on it: