The Washington Post

Son of a Gun Stew

Son of a Gun Stew 6.000

Courtesy Restaurant Associates

Sep 23, 2016

This is an updated version of the chuck wagon stew made by many freed black slaves who worked as ranch hands in the West after the Civil War. It contains ingredients they stocked, including barley, root vegetables and dried tomatoes. It is served at the Sweet Home Cafe in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Make Ahead: The stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: You may be able to find cooked barley on the salad bar in your supermarket.

6 - 8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6-8 servings

  • 4 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour, or more as needed, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed well, then diced
  • 2 large ribs celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups veal stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed well and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears)
  • 1/2 cup vacuum-packed sun-dried tomatoes, each cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 tablespoons cooked pearled barley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves


Season the short ribs generously with salt and pepper all over, then dust them with the 1/4 cup of flour (or more as needed).

Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof braising pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, work in batches as needed, adding the meat, browning it until crusty on all sides and transferring it to a plate as you go. (It will not be cooked through.)

Once the pan is empty, reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stirring to coat and dislodging any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the tomato paste; cook for 3 minutes or until a rich color and aroma have developed.

Add the butter; once it has melted, dust the contents of the pan with the 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring to incorporate. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the wine. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid in the pan has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Return all the meat to the pan; once the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, cook for 2 minutes, then add the veal stock and bay leaf. Once the mixture has begun bubbling again, cover the pan tightly and transfer to the oven; cook for about 2 hours, or until the short ribs are tender. Leave the oven on.

Use tongs to transfer the short ribs to a separate, ovenproof casserole that’s large enough to hold them and the vegetables. Strain the pan liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids, then return the liquid to the pan. Cook over medium heat until it has thickened a bit; strain and discard any fat as needed. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the turnips and potatoes; once the water returns to a boil, cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are about three-quarters cooked. Drain and transfer to the casserole, placing them and the corn, sun-dried tomatoes and barley around the meat. Pour the thickened sauce over the meat and vegetables, then sprinkle the thyme on top.

Bake (middle rack, uncovered) for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaf.

Serve hot.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from a recipe developed by Albert Lukas, supervising chef at the Sweet Home Cafe in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at

Avg. Rating (6)

Rate this recipe

Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 8): 600

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 31g 48%

Saturated Fat: 13g 65%

Cholesterol: 175mg 58%

Sodium: 640mg 27%

Total Carbohydrates: 29g 10%

Dietary Fiber: 4g 16%

Sugar: 7g

Protein: 50g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

Most Read Lifestyle