Since the weather is now getting cold, and I want to go out to the grocery even less than usual, I have started to make dinner with what ever is on hand. I tend to make a lot of soups and stews because I can make them in the morning or the day before and let them slow cook all day. They is very little prep involved and they cook a long time all by themselves. And let me say nothing is better to coming home to the yummy smell of stew cooking. I have never made two stews exactly the same and I don’t like to measure anything, but the basics of any stew are all the same. You need a base, some meat and/or veggies, some spices, and a Crock-pot. The following is the stew I made yesterday.
First, I browned some cube steak in dash of olive oil in a skillet. You can really use any cut of meat you have on hand, rump, round steak, cube, roast, what ever. I was using some of our lovely organic cow that we purchased this past summer. I must say that the better the quality of the meat the better the stew in the end. While you are browning the meat add whatever seasoning you like. It is best to add things that go well with the meat as this seasoning will not really penetrate the whole stew but will stay in the meat. I used some dry thyme, coriander, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. As far a how much of everything, they are in order of greatest to least… it was mostly thyme and a small dash of nutmeg. When the meat was browned on all sides, but not over cooked I covered it with red wine. I used pinot noir, but again use what you like. If you like to drink it, it will taste good in your stew.
For other stews I have used beer as the base, but had a bottle of wine opened so I used that. For beer I prefer the stouter variety for stew, but have used just about everything that is amber to black in color… My husband’s homebrew is my favorite.
While browning the meat I start to throw the other stuff into the Crock-pot. I used a can of chicken stock (beef, chicken, vegetable stock, whatever you have) Some more of the red wine, maybe a cup or two, kind of depends on how much stew you are making. The rule of thumb is that you just want enough liquid ingredients to cover the meat and veggies so nothing get scorched in the cooking process, also the liquid will cook down quite a bit. I added about 4 potatoes peeled and chopped, and handful of chopped carrots. I usually like more veggies, but having not gone to the store the pickings were slim this time. In the past I have used frozen and fresh veggies. Both work but the frozen tend to break down more than the fresh, they still taste great but kind of disappear visually. I also added a spoon full of horseradish, a good squirt of spicy mustard (you can use dry if you have it, but regular old sandwich mustard works just fine),a spoonful of beef bouillon, and some butter (about 1/4 a stick).
Next I added the meat to the Crock-pot and that’s it. Let cook for anywhere from 3-8 hours on low. Just cook till everything is nice and soft. You can turn it on in the morning before work and it will be nice and ready when you get home. One final thing you can do if you want is when you are about ready to eat take some of the broth out and put it in a jar and add a spoon or two of flour to it, shake vigorously to mix and then add back in to the stew and let cook for a few more minutes. This will thicken up the base a little bit and make it more stewy. Enjoy and have fun.