Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crocktober: Idiot-Proof Crock Pot Beef Stew

A hot bowl of stew is one of the things I look forward to the most about cold weather. And I hope I'm not the only one - I've got a post about sweet potato and pinto bean chili coming up at the end of the week, so stay tuned for that.
 I know that this looks like a long list of ingredients, but most of these things are seasonings or staples that you probably have sitting in a cabinet already. Obviously this logic is flawed, but I always consider these things freebies. And anyway, if you asked 50 different people what they put in their beef stew, they would probably all give you a different combination of ingredients, so it's totally up to you.

3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3/4 lb. stew beef, cut into 1-inch-ish cubes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can beef broth or stock, or water
1/2 onion, diced (I would have used a whole one but realized that it probably wouldn't fit)
1 medium-sized potato, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry Italian herbs, or dry oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Pinch ground allspice or ground clove
A couple teaspoons of flour, or 1 tsp of cornstarch
Salt (to your taste)

10 3/4 oz can reduced sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup (optional; you could also use another flavor, like cream of tomato)

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, paprika, allspice, salt, and pepper. Add beef and toss to coat.
2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown beef on the outside and drain off any excess fat.
3. In your sprayed crock pot combine beef, broth, onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dry herbs and potato. Cook on low for about 8-10 hours, or high for about 4-5, or until your veggies are tender.
Note: If you want to, add a 10 3/4 oz can of condensed cream of mushroom soup about 20 minutes before serving. This is totally optional, but I would recommend it if you like a creamier stew broth. I added half a can that I needed to use up, and I recommend it.

I used "extra lean" stew beef, whatever that means, but you could use any cut of beef that you feel like, cut into pieces. Obviously you wouldn't want to use an expensive cut since it will be cooking all day. And for crock pots, cheap cuts are just fine. It'll still come out juicy and yummy. I used carrot and potato, but you could also use celery.
 Normally I am not a big fan of "fat free" this and that, mainly because I always wonder what they put in there instead of fat, but I'll be real. Fat free broth was on sale this week, so that's what I used, and though I can't really crunch the numbers, between the "extra lean" beef, veggies, and low-sodium-fat-free beef broth, I have to think that there are much less healthy beef stews out there. Most recipes that I've read also call for higher beef-to-veggie ratio.

This stew is incredibly easy, and after 9 hours, it was REALLY yummy. I think that little bit of the cream of mushroom soup went a long way toward giving the broth more body and substance. And now I have beef stew for days. Maybe a lot of days. Fine with me. My only regret is that all of my bread-baking accoutrement are in another state. If you're the baking type, this is a golden opportunity.

Quote of the Day: "Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread --- there may be."  ~ David Grayson, "Adventures in Contentment" (1907)

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