Whaler’s Stew with Beef or Wild Game: A Hot, Filling Meal on a Cold Winter Day

whalers bowhead stew n

Ladle out a bowl, mug or thermos of hot, hearty stew to fuel up for wintertime activities or for just enjoying a movie by a cozy fire.

If you’ve never made a stew, or if you haven’t cooked one up in a while, the heart of winter is the perfect time. We’ve been using this basic recipe for years, varying the ingredients with what we have on hand. Different iterations have featured beef tri-tip, moose, elk, caribou, and even bowhead whale. Sweet potatoes, other potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables feature nicely. A favorite of ours is parsnips, which add a distinctive flavor that goes well with beef and wild game. While corn starch or all purpose flour are traditional thickeners in stews – and perfectly fine – we use rice flour. It dissolves easily, is virtually without flavor and thickens without becoming pasty.

Rather than provide specific amounts of ingredients for this delicious meal, we recommend taking a loose approach. A volume ratio of about three to one vegetables (combined) to meat works well, but there’s no need to measure or to be overly exact.

Whaler’s Stew

Ingredients (Each vegetable is optional and could be omitted while increasing the amount of other vegetables or substituted for something else.)

  • lean, boneless meat such as chuck steak, tri-tip, or a similar cut from wild game. Cut into cubes or chunks.
  • olive oil
  • onions, chopped coarse
  • garlic, minced or chopped fine
  • red wine or sherry (optional)
  • beef bouillon (or vegetable bouillon, or water) – enough to just cover all ingredients when combined. We use Better than Bouillon.
  • carrots, sliced into discs
  • russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
  • pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes or yams, cubed
  • parsnips, chopped coarse or sliced into discs
  • mushrooms, chunked
  • brussels sprouts, cut in halves or fourths, depending on size
  • tomatoes, diced
  • sweet corn
  • seasonings: sea salt or smoked salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, sage, cloves


  1. In a large bowl, add meat, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  2. In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot enough to make the meat sizzle, add it, stirring and turning to sear meat. Reduce temperature and continue cooking meat through, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add onion and additional oil, if necessary. Add a splash or two of sherry or red wine (optional). Stir until onions become barely translucent but are still crunchy.
  4. Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in seasonings and add bouillon mixture or water.
  6. Add potatoes and any other slow-cooking vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Stir in rice flour – a little at a time to prevent clumping – to achieve desired thickness. Start by adding a total of 1 tbsp, wait a few minutes as broth thickens, and continue adding to desired thickness.
  8. Add additional vegetables, adding corn last as it doesn’t need much cooking time. Simmer till vegetables are tender, tasting and adjusting seasonings as necessary.

Alternatively: Place vegetables, (except corn) in individual bowls – each to its own bowl. Mix thoroughly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Keeping vegetables separate according to their kind, place them all on a heavy, oiled baking sheet and roast them at 400 degrees F, checking and removing each type of vegetable as it is done and setting them all aside in a large bowl. This ensures that all vegetables are cooked to the right consistency, and the roasting brings out sweetness. Cook meat as above, set aside with the oil it cooked in, and then add all ingredients to a large pot to finish cooking. Add the corn last. Vegetables can be grilled in this fashion too. It’s a little more effort, but it makes a difference.

Individual-Sized Beef Wellingtons for Two

beef wellington sliced n

This classic presentation serves well as the entrée for any special meal. And where did the name originate?

There are two classic ways to serve Beef Wellington. Created from a cut of filet mignon weighed in pounds, it makes for a centerpiece as impressive as whole salmon, striped bass, loupe de mer, or a whole roasted turkey. There is a definite Wow factor with food done large. These are the kinds of presentations that prompt guests to spontaneously break into shared applause – gratifying to any chef.

beet goat cheese stacked salad n

This stacked beet salad, made from roasted beets and homemade goat cheese, goes nicely with beef. 

But equally appreciative responses can be elicited with individual-sized presentations. Just as a handsomely baked 15-pound salmon, perhaps stuffed with shrimp and garnished with sliced lemons and fresh fennel draws the focus to the center of the table, a perfectly poached 12 ounce trout adorned with fiddle heads and a side of freshly cut asparagus inspires individual applause and equally broad smiles. There is something wonderfully intimate about being served with an individually prepared whole fish, a cornish hen or small game bird, or a perfectly done melt-in-your mouth individual Beef Wellington.

beef wellington whole

Living in a “dry” (no alcohol permitted) village in Arctic Alaska is a considerable hardship at times. A Malbec, a Malbec, our kingdom for a Malbec! We made do with wild cherry sparklers from our SodaStream.

And the origins of this dish? Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, was reputedly a big fan of beef, mushrooms and pâté cooked in pastry. Another claim is that the dish was named in honor of Wellington, New Zealand. To us, the theory that this dish was named for the Duke of Wellington seems the more plausible. Arthur Wellesley was a field marshall whose troops defeated the army of Napoleon Bonaparte resulting in the collapse of Napoleon’s empire and his exile. Wellesley’s status as a conquering hero earned him royalty status as the First Duke of Wellington. Chefs sometimes name their creations after people they admire, and there was a similar French dish at the time that British chefs may have felt merited appropriate modification and renaming.

Beef Wellington for Two


  • 2 cuts of filet mignon, about 3/4 lb. each, brought to room temperature. The better the grade of beef, the better this dish will be.
  • duxelles – (a mushroom paste: see recipe below)
  • enough puff pastry to wrap each filet
  • enough prosciutto to completely wrap each filet
  • flour
  • whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 sheets of plastic wrap large enough to wrap each Beef Wellington
  • parchment paper

Preparing the Filet MIgnon

  1. Place filets in a bowl one at a time. Drizzle with olive oil and turn to completely coat filet while adding pinches of salt and pepper so that all sides are seasoned. Set filets on cutting board.
  2. Add light olive oil to a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Use tongs to sear all sides of filets. This takes about 20 – 30 seconds per side – a total of about 2 – 3 minutes. Do not overcook, but make sure all surface areas are seared.
  3. Save the remaining oil to sauté the duxelles.
  4. Let filets cool.



  • 1/2 lb. shitake mushrooms chopped fine (or any firm mushroom). We use dried shitakes which reconstitute nicely, store forever, and retain lots of flavor.
  • 1 shallot, chopped fine (Penzeys dried shallots work well)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine (Penzeys dried garlic is excellent)
  • 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil (Or sear the filet first and use the remaining oil to sauté the duxelles in the same pan)
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Place mushrooms, shallot, garlic, thyme and sage in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped.
  2. Place butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat till butter is melted or add butter to oil remaining from searing beef and use that. Add mushroom mixture, reduce heat and sauté for approximately 8 minutes, until most of the liquid is evaporated and mixture is the consistency of a damp paste. Mix in salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Prepare the Beef Wellington

  1. On cutting boards or table, lay out two sheets of plastic wrap sufficiently large to wrap each Beef Wellington.
  2. Arrange prosciutto on plastic wrap making sure there is plenty of extra plastic wrap all around. Overlap prosciutto as necessary to ensure that it will completely cover the filets.
  3. Use a spatula to cover prosciutto with duxelles.
  4. Cover each rested filet with a 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard – a sparse coating.
  5. Place filets atop prosciutto. Using plastic wrap to keep things tight, wrap beef in prosciutto, making sure everything is tight and sealed.
  6. Place prosciutto-wrapped filets in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This will help the prosciutto to stay in place when the plastic is removed.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove filets from refrigerator.
  8. Preheat over to 400 degrees F.
  9. Lightly dust cutting boards with flour and arrange puff pastry sheets sufficient to wrap each filet.
  10. Remove plastic from filets. (This may be easiest done with scissors.) Place filets on puff pastry and fold or roll up pastry so that filet is completely encased. Brush egg wash onto pastry edges to help get a good seal.
  11. Place parchment paper on baking sheet. Turn encased Beef Wellingtons seam side down and place on baking sheet. Make 2 slashes on top of pastry to allow steam to escape.
  12. Brush egg wash on pastry and place in pre-heated oven.
  13. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, checking toward the end to make sure pastry does no overcook. Beef should have an internal temperature of 125 degrees F.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy with a fine Malbec, Zinfandel or Cabernet!