Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Recipe: Beef Stew for Steak & Ale Pie

Beef stew is one of my favorite things, especially in the winter. And so easy. I mean, browning the beef is technically optional, but I like the extra flavor, so once you get past that all you have to do is throw chopped veggies in a slow cooker, add liquid, and wait 4 to 8 hours. And then the house smells like comfort food goodness and I know what we're having for at least one meal a day for the next two to three days.
Cutting up the beef
I think the best part is that it's so flexible. The recipe I use make my estimates from is for a 3.5 - 4 quart cooker (mine is 6), so I just ramp up the amounts of stuff I like and reduce what I'm less fond of. I use beer instead of water, and no green beans, handfuls and eyeballed amounts instead of cups. And it turns out great every time.
So many little potatoes!
Potato peelings, thanks to my crank peeler.
I normally don't peel the potatoes, but they were really dirty, despite my best efforts!
Old-Fashioned Beef Stew (from Better Homes and Gardens' Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes, Volume 2)
These are the amounts given in the cookbook, but I've added my notes, because like I said, I increase and decrease due to my tastes and the volume of my cooker.

2 T all-purpose flour (this has never been even close to enough for me)
12 oz beef stew meat, cut into 3/4" cubes (I usually end up using close to 2 lbs)
2 T cooking oil (again, never enough)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 c cubed potatoes (about 3 medium)
1 1/2 c frozen cut green beans (I skip these)
1 c frozen whole kernel corn (I use more)
2 medium carrots, sliced (more! more!)
2 c vegetable juice
1 c water (I use beer - something not too bitter - a 12-oz bottle/can)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t beef bouillon (instant)
1 t dried oregano (I skip this)
1/2 t dried marjoram (and this)
1/2 t black pepper (more of this)
1 bay leaf

Dredge meat in flour. Shake off excess and brown meat in hot oil in a big saucepan (not nonstick) - work in batches so you have space to turn the pieces. Put the meat on the bottom of the slow cooker and layer the vegetables on top. If you'd like you can deglaze the saucepan with some of the beer. It will sizzle like crazy, but let it calm down and stir up all the yummy browned bits from the bottom. When the liquid has reduced a little, add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the beer. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours (our cooker is still pretty young, so I can usually get away with 8 to 8.5 hours).
Carrot peelings!
For the pie, I skipped the onions - since we had the jam - and poured everything from the slow cooker into a big Dutch oven. Dan rolled out the crust onto the top, and we baked the whole thing for about 30 minutes at 350* - just so the crust was done. If we do this again I'd like to see if we can make individual pies - we've done apple pies like that with pretty good success, so I imagine we could have good results with the stew.

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