Saturday, February 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew


I love Cook's Illustrated's Hearty Beef Stew (my personal favorite), and I never thought that I could find a slow cooker version that would rival the original, but man- this was delicious.

Stews = braised beef = long hours on the stovetop and/or in the oven.

Well, not anymore- you can have the delicious beef stew made and done for you while you are at work without compromising taste or depth of flavor.

I strongly encourage you to brown the meat and onions, and quickly bringing the sauce to a simmer. Like the original blogger said, browning = flavor. I know the concept behind slow cookers is the convenience of throwing everything in the slow cooker and setting it and forgetting it. By browning the meat/onions and bringing the sauce to a simmer- I guarantee you the extra 10 minutes of this prepwork will be worth your time. Trust me on this.

The browned bits add THE flavor to this beef stew. Take this extra step- it is worth it!

Ingredients:
  • 5# boneless chuck roast, removed of extraneous fat and cut into 1" pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 15-oz can (2 cups) low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp Minute tapioca
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces

Directions:
  1. After the meat has been cut into chunks, pat it dry with a paper towel and season all the pieces with salt and pepper. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat until the oil is rippling and hot. Cook half of the beef until it is well browned on each side, about 4 minutes. No need to cook it all the way through – just get some great brown color all around. Toss the meat in the slow cooker and follow the same process with the second half of the meat (you may need to add another tablespoon of oil to the pan if it looks a little dry). Remove the meat to the slow cooker, trying to keep as much oil in the pan as possible.

  3. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onions, celery and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until the onions are translucent and golden, about 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. 
  5. Slowly whisk in the broth, soy sauce, 1/2 tsp thyme and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, scraping the bottom browned bits, and transfer it to the slow cooker, pouring it over the meat.
  6. Stir the tapioca into the slow cooker. 
  7. 
In a large bowl, toss the carrots, 1 Tbsp oil, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. 
  8. On the counter, lay out a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (use two sheets of regular foil on top of each other if you don’t have heavy-duty). Place the tossed vegetables on one side of the foil. Fold the foil over the vegetables and crimp the edges really well to form a little foil packet that will fit in the top of your slow cooker. 
  9. Place the foil packet of vegetables on top of the stew, cover the slow cooker, and cook on low for 10-11 hours.

  10. When the stew is finished cooking, carefully remove the foil packet from the top of the stew. 
  11. Discard the bay leaves from the stew. 
  12. Carefully open the foil packet (be careful of steam that may escape as you open it!). Return the vegetables and any juices to the slow cooker and gently mix them into the stew. 

Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

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