When I was in law school, my favorite kitchen tool was my slow cooker. At the end of a long day, it was wonderful to be able to come back to my apartment to a homemade meal that took minimal effort on my part; like so many people out there who work grueling hours, minimal time and effort was literally all I had to spend on cooking. (Whoever you are, thank you to the inventor of the slow cooker!) But I have to admit, now that I work from home, my slow cooker often sits forgotten in the back of my pantry…mainly because it’s so easy for me to give a quick stir to whatever is slow cooking on the stovetop or in the oven. That is, until one day a couple weeks ago when I had friends coming over for dinner on an evening when I was going to be out all day, and I needed a home-cooked meal that could take care of itself. I was wracking my brain trying to come up with an idea when I saw the cover of December’s Cooking Light magazine.
Classic Slow Cooker Beef Stew looked perfect. Chilly days call for warming comfort food and what better than stew? With its hearty veggies and deep flavor, beef stew is always sure to be a hit. Taking a quick peek at the recipe, I realized that even though this is a fairly basic version of beef stew (without even celery or mushrooms, which are vegetables that I don’t usually leave out), it sounded like it had rich flavor with ale, thyme, Dijon mustard, and red wine vinegar. I knew I wanted to give it a try. Read my notes below to see what I thought of this recipe.
Classic Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 7 hours
2 pounds trimmed boneless chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 medium yellow onions, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) bottle nut brown ale
1 1/4 cups unsalted beef stock (such as Swanson), divided
1 1/2 pounds baby Dutch potatoes, halved
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of beef to pan; cook 6 minutes, turning until well browned on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef; remove beef and any juices from pan.
2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onions and garlic; sauté 4 minutes. Add beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup stock, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer. Carefully pour mixture into a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Add beef, potatoes, carrots, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours.
3. Combine remaining 1/4 cup stock and flour, stirring with a whisk. Stir flour mixture into stew; cook 15 minutes or until thickened. Stir in mustard and vinegar. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Sprinkle with parsley.
• As per Cooking Light, be careful not to choose a beer that’s super-hoppy because it will taste too bitter.
• Also from Cooking Light, to get 2 pounds of trimmed meat, you’ll probably need to purchase a 2 1/2-pound roast.
• I decreased the black pepper from 1 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon, and found that this was still a touch peppery; next time I’ll decrease it to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
• I added 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary.Nutritional Information per serving:
Serving size: 1 1/4 cups
Calories per serving: 386
Fat per serving: 17.9g
Saturated Fat per serving: 5.9g
Sodium per serving: ,span class="sodium">509g
Fiber per serving: 3.5g
Protein per serving: 25.1g
Cholesterol per serving: 86mg
Carbohydrates per serving: 28.3g
Cooking Light December 2013
The deep flavor of this rich stew was brightened by the addition of Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar at the end of cooking, resulting in a well-balanced dish. It looks like a pretty basic beef stew recipe, but the flavor is spot-on and truly satisfying on a chilly evening.
Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?
I think it did. A perfect beef stew recipe is the ultimate cold-weather comfort food, plus the fact that this dish cooks itself in the slow cooker is just gravy (sorry, I couldn’t resist the corny pun). As another bonus, leftovers were even better for lunch the next day.