Stew and I get along quite well. Hot, piping, with a slice of generously buttered toast on the side. Usually, I don’t have the patience for stew though. I’ve thrown stewing beef into thick, chunky soups before, but scooped up my first bowl only an hour later, when everything’s hot, but the beef is still chewy, a bit of a chore to get through. Tasty still, but no, not ideal.
One night this week, I felt like cooking, but everything I wanted to make was going to take upwards of two hours and M and I were hungry now. There’s not a lot of room for getting too fancy when you get home at 5:30 and would really like to get some food into your stomach before 9:00. Besides, our fridge is looking pretty bare: our pantry is packed to the hilt, but when there’s no fresh food to accompany the pasta and canned ingredients, all the canned beans in the world aren’t going to get supper on the table. So, begrudgingly, I let M pull our last frozen pizza from the oven.
But, I wasn’t willing to give up quite so easily. There was stewing beef in the fridge, four sad looking carrots in the crisper, onions in the pantry and a box of red wine on the fridge. I pulled out M’s 5 quart crock pot and set to browning and chopping.
While stew and I get along quite well, the crock pot and I need a reconciliation. The concept is great: mix everything together, turn it on at 7:20 am before you leave for work and come back to the heavenly smell of your supper already waiting for you. This worked right up until 5:37 pm the next day when I dipped my spoon into the delicious smelling mix for a first taste.
An hour of chopping and 9 hours of cooking… wasted?
The meat was deliciously tender but it had stewed in liquid that consisted of far too much wine and not enough broth. I was disappointed. In an attempt to save the stew, I threw in a spoonful of bouillon and a cup of water. We waited an extra half hour before we ate until M, in tasting it, reported it was good and hot.
“There’s an odd taste,” he said.
The stew was still tasty. And like I said, that meat was so. tender. It even got better the longer it ‘aged’ in the fridge in the same way soups do. But, whatever you do, don’t put two cups of wine in it. Stick to one. Or half, even.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 package stewing beef
½ – 1 tsp herbs of your choice – thyme, basil, oregano, etc.
Flour to dredge
2 tbsp canola oil
Winter veggies of your choice – carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, etc.
1 cup wine
2 cups beef, chicken, or veggie broth
½-1 tsp of the same mix of herbs as above
Put your stewing beef in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the herbs and mix together so the meat is evenly coated. Gradually add flour to dredge beef in. I did this all in the same bowl because I didn’t want to use any more flour than I needed, but you can also do this the traditional way: drop the meat piece by piece into a bowl of flour and coat. Whichever way you do it, just make sure the pieces of meat are well-coated in flour.
Cook the flour coated pieces of meat in the oil over medium heat to brown. If necessary to provide your meat with enough space, do this in batches. When the meat is browned, transfer it to your crock pot.
Chop your veggies. You can make the pieces as small or as large as you like. Add them to your meat.
Mix in the wine, broth and herbs.
This whole mix filled my crock pot about halfway, so there’s plenty of room to double this recipe if desired.
Cook on low for 9 hours. If you can, taste the mix halfway through cooking and adjust accordingly.
(*My camera is completely dead and I don’t want to drop another $15 for yet another pair of batteries that will die on me again. These pictures are taken with M’s camera which is quite a bit older and, as you might be able to tell, I have absolutely no mastery with it.)