In the late 19th century, Dallas sat close to the Chisholm Trail, one of the region’s most important cattle drive routes, which ran around 800 miles from the ranches of Texas to the railheads in Kansas, where the livestock would be shipped to feed the East Coast.
Today, Texas still prides itself on its beef, but at least one Dallas restaurant also serves a version of a dish eaten by the cowboys who worked the trail. “Son-of-a-bitch stew” presumably earned its name from the exclamation uttered by the cowboys lucky enough to eat it. When, if ever, it was mentioned around ladies, it was reportedly described instead as “Son-of-a-gun” stew.
One food historian suggests the recipe, customarily composed of offal from a young calf, was borrowed by chuck wagon cooks from the local native Americans.
A versatile dish with many variations, depending on which innards happen to be available, Son-of-a-bitch stew survives today at – among other places – Stampede 66, a Dallas establishment with a menu composed of modern takes on traditional Texan fare, which was recently included in Esquire magazine’s prestigious list of the best new restaurants in the US. Chef Stephan Pyles’s “Sonofabitch 2013” contains chunks of heart, liver, sweetbreads and tongue in a creamy veal stock, set off by pickled onions, Brussel sprout leaves and green beans.
It’s best sampled with a side of homemade cornbread to soak up the sauce. Believe it or not, it’s almost worth riding 800 miles to eat.