Thoughts beyond the Novel: CCC.2, Pan-American Beef Stew

Why Pan-American Stew? Why not? As a starter, there are many notable stews from around the world. They number at approximately 179 stews. So why not add another that draws from the fruits of Latin America and from export trade? By happenstance, it was mentioned in the historical novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARES.

The Pan-American stew uses three prominent food sources of the Americas—namely, sweet potato, beef. and cayenne pepper. For good measure, let us throw in some mushroom stock (a food source known to improve the digestive system and enhance one’s immune system) instead of beef stock. Common stews are Mulligan/Burgoo (United States), Chili  con carne (southern Texas), Brunswick (southern United States) Ropa Vieja (Cuba); but not so well known are Booyah (midwestern United States), Seco (Equador), Sancocho (Puerto Rico), and Fricot (Acadian Canada) to name a few.

This recipe is prepared in an electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot, and is easy to prepare.


1.5 pounds of chuck roast beef (boneless, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch chunks)

¾ teaspoon ionized sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly ground is preferred)

2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil

1 pound mushrooms, optional (any mushroom or mixed or your favorite, cut into chunky sizes)

1-2 medium onions (chopped)

1 medium jalapeno (seeded and chopped) or one small serrano pepper[i]

1 tablespoon paprika or smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon oregano

3-5 cloves of minced garlic

1 cup red wine (unused/leftover wine)

3 cups of mushroom stock

1 pound of sweet potatoes (cut into 1-inch chunks)

2-3 carrots (peeled and cut angled-sliced rondelle)

2 tablespoons of unbleached, all-purpose flour


1a.  Beef, salt and pepper: In advance by at least an hour, season the beef with the salt and pepper.

1b. Using a  6–quart Instant Pot, press the Sauté tab. When “hot” appears on the display, swirl in the oil.

1c. Add the beef into the inner stainless-steel pot, a third at a time so that the beef is golden brown on both sides.This method is required so that beef does not end up “stewing in its own juice and so that it has room to evaporate and brown. The browning into a rich, dark color is the secret of developing flavor in the stew. Cook each batch for approximately 5 minutes to achieve the golden browning of the beef. Each batch is transferred to a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

2.  Depending on the size of the cut mushrooms, cook in batches as well, stirring occasionally, until they release their juices and brown. This takes about 10 minutes for each batch. Each batch is to be transferred to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Once all the mushrooms are sautéed, season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour off any extra liquid, if necessary.) Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside as well.

3a. Add enough oil to the inner pot when adding the onions and chili peppers, stirring constantly for approximately 5 minutes until soft.

3b. Add paprika, oregano, and garlic, stirring for about 1 minute.

3c.  Add the cup of red wine, stirring occasionally while craping the brown bits from the bottom of the inner pot.

3d. Add the 3 cups of mushroom broth, stirring, and then adding the browned beef and browned

mushrooms with the accumulated juices.

3e. At this point, season the ingredients to taste with salt and pepper. Optionally, you can add some dashes of cayenne pepper for a spicier flavor.

4a. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam-release handle to “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at high pressure for 25 minutes.

4b.  Allow a 10-minute for the pressure to release naturally. Then turn the steam-release handle to “venting” to release the remaining pressure.

4c. Do not open until the float valve drops back into the lid. When this happens, you know that it is safe to open the lid.

4d.  Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid.

5. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots. (You could add other vegetables that are a tuber or root, but the liquid ratio to the added vegetables could result in a burn event.)

5b. Remove 1 cup of broth of the stew to use for the thickening agent.

5c. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam release handle to the “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at 5 minutes.

5d. After the 5 minutes, use the quick pressure release, ensuring that the float valve has dropped back into the lid before removing the lid.

6. Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid. Turn the cooker off.

7a. Gradually add the 2 tablespoon of flour to the tepid 1 cup of broth of the stew held in reserve, stirring until  smooth. Add the mixture to the stew in the inner pot, stirring constantly. Press the sauté tab and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the stew boils and thickens slightly.

7b. At this point, before serving, season to taste—more salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper?

8. Serve and enjoy with rice, mashed potatoes, salad, or the like.

[i] Caution about chile peppers: Chile oil released by chopping, seeding, or even harvesting hot peppers will cause a burning sensation, especially when applied to the face. Wear kitchen goggles and thick rubber gloves when preparing serranos and be careful not to remove them until all prep has been completed and tools and surfaces washed. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and the rest of your face while in contact with chiles. If you are processing or pureeing the peppers, avoid placing your face over the appliance after opening. Hot chile peppers are used to make pepper spray, and pureeing in a closed environment can create a puff of noxious fumes when first opened.

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