Monday, March 16, 2009

Slow Cooking: Hearty Beef Stew

I was pleasantly surprised to find a trial issue of Cook's Country in my mailbox a few weeks ago. It's by the same authors as Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen- both of which I love for their experiment style approach to cooking. They give you the tried and true recipes, tips and know how. The recipes in Cook's Country seem to be more down to earth, homey, comfort food recipes. One of which, is the Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew.

The recipe title did not catch my eye since I don't really like beef stew- the vegetables are always turned to baby food by the time the meat is cooked and the whole thing just tastes of mud covered with salt. But when I went to turn the page I noticed, included with the recipe, was a picture of a crock pot with an aluminum foil Hobo Pack (aka tin foil dinner) set inside. This intrigued me so I read the cook's commentary and recipe.

Sure enough, this cook was looking for a way to cook the meat and the vegetables to perfection so that the flavors married. The recipe has you steam the vegetables in a tin foil pack on top of the beef in the slow cooker. The other tricks are to brown the meat first, add a dash of soy sauce for a beefy flavor no one will ever guess is soy sauce, and to thicken the stew without a starchy texture by using tapioca.

Not only can you cook this in your crock pot while you are away, you can prep this stew the night before by cutting the vegetables and browning the meat and onions. Store the meat from Step One and onion mixture from Step Two in different bags. In the morning put it all in the slow cooker with the hobo pack on top and get it started.

Hearty Beef Stew
from Cook's Country by Diane Ungar
serves 6-8

5 lb boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 medium onions, chopped fine
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 cups chicken or beef broth
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp Minute tapioca
2 cups frozen peas, set out to thaw

1. Dry beef with paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over med high heat until just smoking, add half of beef and brown on all sides about 8 min. Transfer to slow cooker and repeat with remaining beef.

2. Add 1 Tbsp oil, onions and 1/4 tsp salt to the empty skillet and cook until golden brown about 6 min. Add tomato paste and cook stirring well for 2 minutes. Add broth and soy sauce, bring to simmer and transfer to slow cooker insert.

3. Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes 1/2 tsp thyme and remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap vegetables in a foil packet that will fit in the slow cooker, folding over the seam to trap steam. Stir bay leaves and tapioca into slow cooker with the meat and onion mixture. Set the vegetable packet on top of beef.

4. Set the slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 6-7 hours. (Or cook on low for 10-11 hours)

5. Transfer vegetable packet to a plate. Open and pour vegetables and juices into the stew. Add remaining 1 tsp thyme and peas. Let stand until the peas are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 comment:

mimi said...

my dear Holly, you have recovered indeed if you are up to such complicated recipes! You looked so beautiful and healthy yesterday - I'm so happy for you guys! This looks delicious! Perfect for a Sunday dinner.