Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011: Beef Stew for a Cold Night’s Meal

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There are few meals better on a bitterly cold winter’s night than a good, hearty stew. I’ve spent some time perfecting my recipe, making a thick and rich stew that’s more than enough to fill up my hungry husband.

The beauty of making stew is that it costs very little and goes a long way. You can use the cheapest cuts of meat (not just packages labeled “stew meat”, nearly any tough cut is perfect for the low, slow cooking method).

This recipe is best made in a crock pot (adjustable temperature crock pots with very low to very high settings work best) but you could also use a Dutch oven and roast it in a low temp oven.

Beef Stew

2 T. vegetable oil
½ - 1 pound beef cut into medium-sized chunks
Salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
½ white or yellow onion, cut into medium dice
1 large carrot or 5 baby carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large or 2 small ribs celery, leafy greens included, thickly sliced
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 – 2 ½ cups water
2 averaged-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
1 T. butter, softened
1 T. flour

Take a crock pot and turn it up to high heat. Add the oil and let it get warm.

Sprinkle the beef chunks with salt and pepper. Toss them in the flour, then add the meat to the heated oil in the crock pot. Lightly brown the meat, for about 15 minutes, if your crock pot is able to reach a high enough heat. If you are pressed for time or using a crock pot with only low heat settings, brown the meat in a saucepan and then add to the crock pot. Tip: The former method saves you from cleaning an extra pan.

Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the meat mixture, stirring to coat. Add the package of dry soup mix and the water, stir to mix (the measurement is approximate; add enough water to cover all the ingredients plus about an inch). Toss in the cubed potatoes. Cover and cook on medium-low for about 6 hours.

Fifteen minutes before serving, mix together the softened butter and flour to form a roux. Turn the crock pot on high and stir in the roux. Let cook for another 15 minutes, until the stew thickens. Serve with French bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Tip: Use any vegetables you have on hand for this stew: leftover corn, green beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, etc.

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