Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chunky Weeknight Beef Stew and Slow Cooker Magic

I admit it, I have historically looked down on the slow cooker. I’m judgey about food, I know. But the slow cooker/crock pot just always seemed so, well like faking it in the kitchen. You throw stuff in and turn it on and poof, you have dinner. No real cooking required. But then I had a baby and realized HOLY COW, all you have to do is throw stuff in and turn it on and poof, you have dinner! Game changer people. Because let me tell you, my days of swaying about my kitchen, making up recipes as I went, spending time shopping and singing to myself as I gently caramelized something on the stove, those days have been replaced by the road runner version of myself, cradling a 5 month old in one arm and zooming about wondering if I’ll even get time to eat let alone cook.  Yea, life looks different on the other side of the bump. So I broke down and bought myself a dreaded slow cooker and the dang thing has saved my life. I’ve already braised lamb shanks (recipe to come), made chicken stock and now beef stew and that’s all in like 7 days! I drank the kool aid folks. Slow cookers rule.

Weeknight Beef Stew
a girl and her kitchen

1.5 – 2 lbs beef stew meat
4 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped into 1in pieces
4 large carrots, cleaned and chopped into 1in pieces
6 red potatoes, cleaned and quartered
1 package frozen pearl onions
3 garlic cloves, smashed (skins removed)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
 1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp Worchester sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 c beef broth
1 c red wine
 1 tbsp Salt and 1 tbsp pepper (plus more for seasoning meat)
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 cup frozen peas
3 tbsp butter, softened
4 tbsp flour + 4 more to dust meat

Put carrot, celery, potatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, bay, paprika, worchester, tomato paste, 1 tbsp each of salt and pepper, beef stock and wine into crock pot and stir to combine.

In a large nonstick pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, toss the beef into a plastic bag (this is the easiest way) along with a heavy pinch of salt and pepper and 4 tbsp of flour. Mush the meat around in the bag until coated with the flour and seasoning. Brown the floured meat in the hot oil on all sides (a few minutes a side, you are not trying to cook it but get some color on it). May need to increase heat to medium-high when you add the meat to the pan.

Add the browned meat to the crock pot and stir again to combine. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 8-10 hrs. About an hour before you eat, using a fork, mix the softened butter with 4 tbsp of flour so it becomes a paste. Then mix the flour/butter paste into the sauce in the crock pot until most of the lumps are gone. Put the lid back on and continue cooking. The sauce will thicken as it finishes cooking.

When you are ready to eat, stir in the frozen peas (they’ll defrost very very quickly in the hot stew) and serve with crusty bread!

Cooks note: you could also add a cup or two of diced mushrooms with the carrots etc if you like. And if you don't have a crock pot,  you could make this on the stove in a heavy bottom pan or in an over at like 350 for 3 or so hours. Just let it gently simmer away. Also, if using the slow cooker and then leaving the house, just set the butter out before you leave, it will be nice and soft when you get home.

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