Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I think I get my obsession with food from my father. Not necessarily our taste in food; my dad is a strict meat ‘n’ potatoes sort. It’s more the fact that we both really look forward to food. About a month ago, my dad told me that since the weather had been growing cooler, he’d been “thinkin’ a lot about stew lately.” I respect a man who thinks a lot about stew. And I completely understand where he’s coming from. So this weekend we made our annual fall pilgrimage to the homestead, to help my dad prepare his ginormous yard for winter, and feed the man some stew.

I actually despise cooking in someone else’s kitchen. And my mother’s kitchen is no exception, but I do get a sort of perverse thrill from it.

See, when I was young, I used to stay with a babysitter who had this amazing dollhouse that I found enchanting. I was enthralled by the miniatures, the dollhouse was beautifully appointed, and – most importantly – it was Not A Toy. One hundred percent off limits. Likewise, my mother’s kitchen is tiny (unless, of course, you don’t have elbows), and even contains a miniature oven. It is very well furnished in that the knives are sharper, the appliances higher-grade, and the cookware more upscale than anything I’ll ever own. And, lastly, my mother’s kitchen is Not Intended For Use.

My mother finds it irksome when people use her kitchen. I know this, because she says things to me like, “I just discovered the mess you left the last time you used the oven, at Christmas. And I know it was you, because no one has used the oven since.” Or “Thanks for teaching your brother to mess up the kitchen.” (For the record, I actually taught him to make chicken parmesan. To-may-to, to-mah-to.) Obviously I didn’t rebel enough as a child, because I find this entertaining. (Hi Mom! Love you!)

But back to cooking. While my mother was away, I got down to the business of making some serious stew in her kitchen – a double batch to feed the hungry yard crew. Assisting me was my baby brudder, who shall henceforth be known as Cory the Amazing, Disappearing Sous Chef.

He’s nowhere to be found during the more mundane food prep tasks, but miraculously reappears when things get interesting. (Hi Cory! Love you!)

Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Serves 4-6

¾ lb. peeled or baby carrots
2 lb. potatoes
1½ lbs. beef
Flour, for dusting beef
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, for sprinkling on beef
32 oz. beef broth
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. onion powder
1½ tsp. seasoned salt
¼ c. cornstarch
½ c. water
Additional salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, to taste

1. Wake your sous chef, using whatever means necessary. I recommend the patented puppy alarm system. Git 'em, Chester!

2. Ask your sous chef to cut carrots, potatoes, and beef in bite-sized pieces. If your sous chef has disappeared, do this yourself.

Size-wise, use whatever you prefer in your stew. As per my hubby’s request, I cut my meat and veggies into pieces suitable for humans to chew, rather than making stew for giants.

3. Add carrots and potatoes to slow cooker.

4. Dredge about half the beef pieces in flour.

Cory! You’re back!

5. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add cooking spray or some oil, and sear beef until lightly brown. Add beef to slow cooker.

6. Add some of the broth to the pan – just enough to loosen up the bits on the bottom.

7. Add broth to slow cooker, and repeat with remaining beef.

8. Add remaining broth to slow cooker, along with bay leaf, onion powder, and seasoned salt. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours, until beef and vegetables are tender.

9. Combine cornstarch and water, and stir into stew. If stew thickens immediately, season to taste and serve anytime. Otherwise, turn heat to high and cook stew an additional 30 minutes. (Slow cookers really do vary in temperature.)

10. Serve stew in a bowl, with biscuits.Or maybe on toast.


Anonymous said...

Cory appears to be armless while sleeping on the couch. If there was ever an excuse to get out of chopping stew ingredients...

Cory said...

Hey, I had to go see if something uploaded to the Internet correctly (it didn't), so that's why I was gone while the taters and carrots were being cut.

I came back to do what I do well: pour broth :)