I got a fancy new Crock-Pot for Christmas. It's a cool new 6-1/2-quart programmable edition, and it replaces my old cranky analog pot, which was stained, chipped, and generally in need of replacement. Here's what the new one looks like:
Cool touch screen, huh? It's going to be perfect for cooking nice, hot meals for my family all through the winter. In addition, my husband gave me a copy of America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution, and he let me know that anything I made from that book would be fine with him.
I resolved to cook my way through the book.
But first, I thought I'd share with you my very favorite old standby slow-cooker method for making beef stew. This is a recipe that I made up entirely by myself and that I have perfected over the years. It makes the house smell great all day long. I disclaim any liability if your family hates it or if it doesn't come out perfectly. (As my Weight Watchers leader is constantly saying, "individual results will vary.")
Here's what you'll need:
Two pounds beef chuck, cut into cubes for stew
1/2 cup or so of flour
One pound carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces (or use a bag of baby-cut carrots if you're lazy like me)
Six or so stalks of celery, chopped roughly
Two medium onions, peeled and chopped roughly
One clove of garlic, peeled and minced
Two 12-oz. bottles of beer (any kind will do)
Two tablespoons powdered beef bouillon
Two bay leaves
Optional: whatever other root vegetables you have lying around (parsnips, potatoes, turnips, etc., cut into bite-size pieces
Generous shakings of salt and pepper
Here's how you do it:
Put the beef and the flour into a large plastic bag and shake until the beef is completely covered. Season generously with salt and pepper. Line the bottom of the crock-pot with your carrots:
Add the onions, celery, and root vegetables (if using). Sprinkle bouillon over the top, add the garlic and bay leaves, and then add the floured meat.
Pour the beer over the top of the meat, cover, and cook on low setting anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.
One of the things I like most about this recipe is that it's nearly impossible to overcook it. Just start it in the morning, before you head off to wherever you're going, and let it simmer until everyone gets home from school and work and is ready to eat. No less than an hour before you're ready to sit down, lift the lid and give it a good stir, to introduce the floury meat to the simmering beer. This will cause the sauce to thicken. While that's going on, make a pot of rice and a salad, and you are good to go. (Don't forget to remove the bay leaves before serving.) Yield: enough for a hungry family of five (one of whom picks the meat out because she's a vegetarian and another of whom eats only the meat), with plenty of leftovers.