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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.

Son-of-a-Gun-Stew Recipe (Cowboy Stew)

This Son of a Gun Stew recipe is served at the Sweet Home Cafe in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

  • 1 pound beef neck meat, cut in small pieces
  • 1 beef heart, chopped
  • 1 set beef brains
  • 3/4 pound marrow gut, cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 pound calves liver, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • water
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste





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.

Pan of son-of-a-gun-stew photo
     Serves 4


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.
Note: Marrow gut, by the way, is not part of the intestine. It is a milk-secreting tract found in calves. 

Ready in: 6-7 Hrs 25 Min

Kitchen tools you'll need for Son of a Gun Stew:
Dutch Ovens, Stock Pots
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.