Ask Chef Phyllis:
Thinking about a menu for six to seven dinners a week gives me nightmares. Can you help with some recipes for the slow cooker that will satisfy my meat-and-potato family?
— Loretta Edmiston, Riesel, Texas
Yes! Here’s a French Beef Stew with Wine that feeds 4 to 6 good appetites, freezes well, and may even be better as leftovers (Recipe is for slow cookers 4 quarts or larger.).
But first, let’s praise the slow cooker. It’s one of the best tools available to the home cook today—but only if you use it. Many slow cookers are also programmable with simple controls, making themsafer and more energy efficient than leaving a big oven on all day.
This stew is loaded with flavor and easy to prepare with your slow cooker. The original recipe comes from Julia Child’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but it calls for so many vessels and has so many steps and procedures that I get tired just reading it. This version is so much easier, and oh so delicious. Julia would be proud.
Before you gather your ingredients, turn the slow cooker to high. Add:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (schmaltz and/or lard are fine too)
Let the fats warm for 20 minutes while you gather:
½ tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup unbleached flour
2½ pounds beef stew cubes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ quarts beef stock (preferably homemade)
1½ cups dry red wine such as Burgundy or Chianti, or 1½ cups vegetable stock
½ cup whey* (optional), or water
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced, or 8 small Yukon gold or red, left whole and scrubbed
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 large ribs celery, sliced on the diagonal
1 parsnip, peeled and diced (optional)
2 large onions (one red, one yellow), diced
2 tablespoons dried Herbes de Provence seasoning
*Whey, loaded with minerals and nutrients, is great in soups and stews.
For a thicker gravy:
2 tablespoons arrowroot mixed in 2 tablespoons cold water (this will be flavorless). Added 10 minutes before serving, the stew will thicken as it cools.
- Mix salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour in a bowl. Add the beef stew cubes and coat all over. Slide the cubes into the hot oil and butter and brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until aromatic. Add the stock, wine, and remaining ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Once all of the ingredients have been added, they should be completely submerged in the liquid.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high (if programmable). Stir and check liquid levels after 4 hours. Use the tip of a pointed knife or a fork to check that the beef is tender and the vegetables are perfectly cooked. If the gravy isn’t thick enough for you, add the arrowroot/water mixture to the pot in the last 10 minutes. Serve with a tossed green salad and crusty bread, if desired.
I hope this hearty stew helps with planning those weeknight meals.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo from iStock/robynmac