My father-in-law revealed the best beef stew recipe.

Comfort foods are classics for a reason. Except for differences, mac & cheese, chicken noodle soup, and pancakes are rather predictable.   

Not a bad thing. Consistency and predictability make comfort food comforting.   

But sometimes you receive a surprise when you eat one of your favorites. I experienced that years ago when I first tried my father-in-law's beef stew.   

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When Matt and I drove from New York to Massachusetts, where his parents live, we hadn't been dating long.  

one evening when we were there, Matt's dad Dave made his famous beef stew. I was eager to test it, but when I did, I discovered something was odd.   

The normal vegetables—carrots, potatoes, celery—were there, and the beef was tender and the broth tasty, but there was a surprising peppery touch.   

As a culinary editor and nerd, I searched my bowl for the secret ingredient. I saw pepperoni when I saw a droplet of orange fat floating in the soup.   

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