When the days get shorter and temperatures dip into unthinkable territory, I like to have a house full of company. Think of it as a greener way of heating the house with all those bodies inside. On such occasions, I serve dinner buffet style, and I’m not all that concerned about the dinnerware matching either. It’s more about relaxing and enjoying the company of friends. One of my favorite meals to make is a hearty beef stew in my slow cooker. It does all the heavy lifting so I can run out and get some wine. I’ll let guests bring the dessert and some crusty baguettes for sopping up the sauce (we’re among friends, so dragging a piece across the dish is completely okay). If I’m really doing well on time, I might even make some homemade pappardelle to serve it over.
The most important thing to remember when making beef stew is to pat your meat dry before tossing in flour. You want the flour to form a dry crust around the meat before browning it in some hot olive oil. Once that’s done, remove the beef cubes and set aside. Give the carrots, onions, garlic and mushrooms a turn in the hot pan so they can caramelize a bit. Then you’re ready to scrape up the tiny bits of browned goodness at the bottom of the pot. This is done by pouring in some beef stock or red wine, and is called deglazing the pan. Transfer it all to your slow cooker, and the 20 minutes of prep work will result in a tender, comforting stew everyone will be talking about the next day.
Jennie’s Beef Stew
½ cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed & patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound wild mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 large onion, cut into quarters
4 medium carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
½ cup parsley leaves
In a pie plate, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Coat beef cubes with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat half the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. When hot, sauté the beef in batches, turning once or twice, until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to the ceramic pot of your Cuisinart Slow Cooker.
Add the mushrooms, garlic, onion and carrots to the skillet and saute golden, adding the remaining olive oil as needed. Remove the vegetables and add to slow cooker.
Add red wine to the skillet, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in the tomato paste and beef stock. Pour all ingredients into the ceramic cooking pot. Add the bay leaf. Cover and press the on/off button to turn the unit on. Set time to 8 hours and press Low. Slow cooker will automatically switch to Warm when cooking time has elapsed.
Serve in deep bowls over rice or thick pasta noodles, garnished with the chopped fresh parsley.