Crockpot Beef Stew
I don’t know why it never occurred to me to buy meat at the actual meat counter at Whole Foods rather than the pre-packaged stuff…but I started looking a few weeks ago and noticed a pretty decent amount of local pasture-raised beef, different cuts, for only maybe a dollar a pound more than the conventional stuff.
I confess: I love beef. I almost never eat it–after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and watching Food, Inc, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. But I have missed it desperately, and I love it.
Today the temperature around here dropped into the single digits, windchills in the negatives. I had to go shopping, and it is one of those days where it just hurts to breathe unless you have a couple of layers of scarf over your mouth and nose. The kind of day that just cries out for some warm, hearty, comfort-foody kind of dinner.
So I bought two pounds of pasture-raised stew meat. And brought it home and put it into the crockpot. We had the most delicious beef stew I can ever remember having tried in my life, if I do say so myself. Here’s what I did:
Crockpot Beef Stew with Red Wine
Place into the crock of a 5 quart slow cooker:
- 1 large onion, cut up
- 4 stalks celery, cut into bite sized pieces.
- 1-2 lbs stew meat (first toss with a little flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to coat)
- 3.4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- some cut up carrots
- 1 large can (or one quart, jarred) diced tomatoes in juice
- 1-2 bay leaves
(Erm…basically, fill ‘er up–put in as much as you want, of whatever different veggies you like.)
Over the top, pour 2 cups red wine. Cook on low 7-9 hours or high 4-5, till meat is tender.
About an hour before serving, add:
- 1 tsp dried thyme (or a few sprigs, fresh)
- 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried rosemary (or a few sprigs fresh)
Make a slurry of 1/3 cup flour and enough cool water to make a smooth liquid. Blend in a little hot liquid from the stew, then mix all of it into the stew to thicken. Correct seasonings and add a little salt and black pepper if necessary.
Before serving, fish out the sprigs of herbs and bay leaves. (In my family, we leave the bay leaves in and giggle at the person who “finds” them while eating.)
This was absolutely delicious, and made enough to eat tonight, serve again in a couple of days, and freeze a meal’s worth for some point later in the winter. Rich and flavorful, without the added saltiness of commercial beef broth. The herbs and wine gave it real depth of flavor so it didn’t need much added salt, and the different veggies were able to hold their own shape and distinctiveness while still soaking up a lot of the flavor of the rest of the stew. I ended up cooking it on high for about 4.5 hours, on low for 1 more, and then letting it sit on warm for another hour or so till we were ready to eat. Everyone’s crockpot cooks at a slightly different rate, so do whatever you need to make it work; stew is pretty forgiving, as long as there’s plenty of liquid in there so the meat doesn’t dry out.
We ate it with fresh whole wheat bread and butter, and a little more of the wine. A lovely, perfect dinner for a frigid night.