Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beef Stew for beginners

I really like to use my Crock Pot, but I often find that most recipes don't fit in with the amount of hours I am away from the home while at work. An eight hour crock pot pork verde sounds lovely in theory, but it almost always ends up being a rather disgusting looking gelatinous pork jelly by the time I get home from work that night. However, on the weekends in the winter I pull out my Crock Pot for dishes that only need about four to five hours on a weekly basis. 

What I love about this particular dish is that if you make it for guests (or your family), the clean up is done hours before they come over and you can use your free time elsewhere. I have to admit, I do feel rather smug when I go to the park with my kids at 4 pm in the afternoon with nary a worry about what I'm making for dinner that night because its been cooking away on my counter for the past two hours. What's even better is that I have been told by many that the smell of this dish is amazing... one friend went as far as to say she wouldn't mind having a beef stew-scented candle. Ew.  

Cooking beef stew in the oven is a good way to go for some, but I believe that this recipe was meant for the Crock Pot. I adapted this Everyday Food recipe over the years and it has been a hit with family and friends. Maybe there is a market for that beef stew-scented candle after all.

Beef Stew for beginners
Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2006
Serves 4-6 

2 lbs cubed beef (Side note: I always buy a couple of steaks and cube it up myself as my grandmother taught me to never trust what is in those "beef stew" packages of meat, just do it yourself)
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons flour
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, cut into 1/2 rounds
5 or 6 red potatoes, cut up into wedges
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Mix the beef with the tomato paste, vinegar and flour inside the crock pot so the beef is covered with the paste. Generously salt and pepper the mixture and then put the onions, carrot, potatoes, garlic, thyme and bay leaves on top. Cook on high for 5 hours. Spoon into bowls and serve with a hunk of bread and a nice side salad.

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