Saturday, February 26, 2011

BEEF STEW ON A COLD WINTER EVENING

There's not much any better than walking in the back door when you're cold, hungry and tired from a long day at work and a slippery, snowy drive home than to find the kitchen smelling like a wonderful Sunday supper.  Friday, when we had our latest in a long string of snow storms, I had planned ahead enough to have beef stew in the slow cooker awaiting my arrival after work.  With a little prep work the night before, turning out a slow roasted style meal is simple.

I'd actually forgotten about dinner when I walked through the door.  For a brief moment when my nose caught the aroma of cooking beef and vegetables, I thought my Mother was there cooking dinner for me.  Heavy sigh....miss having you here Mom!

ONE OF MY FAVORITE COOKING APPLIANCES
Pretty little cookers, all in a row!
One is WAY too big, another is
too big, but one is JUST RIGHT!
Whether cooking for just me, or turning out a big meal for a bunch of people, one of my favorite cooking utensils is my slow cooker. Or should I say, my slow cookers...I have 3. Ranging in size from large to small, these have turned out meal after meal of good, homecooking goodness over the years. I got my first 5 quart cooker before I ever got married and used it to cook for myself and my roommate or my family on many occasions. Later, after my divorce, I obtained a smaller 3 quart version that rarely saw the light of day unless there was company coming or my parents were staying with me. I still loved these cookers, but they were too large for the small amounts of food I was needing on a regular basis. The few times I attempted to cook a single chicken breast or a small piece of beef roast in these, I came home to burnt, dried out food that was completely unacceptable Consequently, they mostly gather dust on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry.

Just the right size for a
single cook
SIZE TRULY DOES MATTER

In frustration over the inability to turn out a decent pot roast or a chicken dish for one, last year I finally did some more research and ended up purchasing my third slow cooker, a small 1 1/2 quart version that has been my best buddy in the kitchen for months now. Soups for one or two meals - no problem! Tiny pot roasts for one or two - no big deal! Chicken dinners of all kinds - fantastic! With a little pre-planning and prep work the night or morning before mealtime, eating a home cooked, comforting meal is a snap.

SIMPLE BASIC BEEF STEW FOR ONE

6 oz. beef stew meat
2 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stalk celery, cleaned and cut into large chunks
1/4 small onion, peeled and pulled apart
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp corn starch mixed into 1/4 cup cold water
splash of red wine (optional)

The night before:In a skillet, heat a teaspoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the beef stew pieces and brown on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set on a plate. When cooled, put in the fridge for overnight.

In the morning:  Into the slow cooker pot, add the potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper.

Put the browned meat on top and pour the water over. Turn the slow cooker to Low and let cook 8-9 hours.
Before serving:   Remove the beef and vegetables from the cooker.  Discard the garlic and celery (they've done their work).  Put a skillet back on the stove over medium high heat and strain in the liquid from the cooker.  Heat the liquid to boiling, add the corn starch and water and allow to boil until thickened.  Splash in some red wine if desired, cook for a minute longer.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
 Serve the gravy over the stew.
Feel free to add other ingredients to the pot.  Some peas would have been a good addition at the end to lend some color and sweetness.  Exchange sweet potatoes for white.  Add some herbs to the pot such as a bay leaf while it cooks all day or some thyme, either would be good.  Adding a tablespoon of tomato paste and some oregano turns it towards an Italian flare.  You get the idea - once you get the basics down let your pantry take you to other flavors.

This makes quite a bit of stew, so I removed some of the meat and set it aside to make soup one night this week.  Once the meet is cooked, it's a simple task to use a carton of stock and some frozen veggies into a bowl of steaming hot soup. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really great recipe for one person.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bobbi. It was delicious