You don’t have to go to Nebraska for this blockbuster stew

By John Owen | Dec 31, 2013

I was hoping to catch the movie at a local theater, but Bruce Dern was chased out of town by an assemblage of Thor, Ronin, Anchorman Two,  Justin Bieber, Peeta and the Hobbits.

So we drove halfway to Seattle to catch the film at the Oak Tree Cinema. Which is better than walking to Nebraska, which is what Bruce Dern had in mind in the movie of the same name.

Dern has always been one of my favorite Hollywood personalities, even though he was often cast as a misfit, a psycho and one of society's castoffs. In fact, he was a member of a distinguished family, which included a grandfather who served as governor of Utah.  And his daughter is Laura, also a Hollywood celebrity.

Bruce has long been an avid recreational runner who worked up an appetite for gourmet dishes he created in his kitchen.  So we had two things in common.

Long ago, I discovered one of his favorite recipes, which I included in my "Gourmand Gutbuster" cookbook.  To give him credit, I renamed it:

Dern Good Stew

2 ounces butter

2 medium onions, minced

3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut in cubes

salt, pepper

1 eight-ounce can tomato sauce

2 and 3/4 cups chicken broth

1-2 teaspoon thyme

1 garlic clove

1 bay leaf

3 stalks celery

3 medium carrots

16 small, white onions

1/2 pound fresh, small mushrooms

3 tablespoons parsley

Melt the butter in your stewpot. Sauté the onions until golden. Trim the fat away from the lamb, and toss the meat into the pan with the onions.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper while the lamb browns. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, thyme, the whole, peeled garlic clove and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for an hour, occasionally stirring with the sterilized dipstick from a 1944 Nash.

Cut the celery and carrots into chunks and add to the pot.  Peel the onions and throw them in, too.  Cover and simmer another hour.

Next toss in the cleaned mushroom caps, and cook everything another 30 minutes.

If you are going to serve immediately, toss in a couple of lettuce leaves and remove after they have absorbed the grease.  Remove the bay leaf and garlic clove at this time too, if you can find them.  Or you can let the stew cool, skim off the fat, then reheat.

I might be willing to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska, if a bowl of steaming hot stew was waiting at the end.

In the movie, Bruce Dern's character was determined to walk, ride or saunter from Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Nebraska.  The prize waiting at the end of the film was one million dollars, or less.  Maybe a whole lot less.

To find out, see the movie.  It will reward you in a manner never approached by the Hobbits, Walter Mitty, Thor, Ronin and Anchorman Two.

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