This is a super “Get Out of Jail Free Card” kind of meal in the winter months when you know you’ll come home freezing cold and worn to a frazzle.
Such was the case last Thursday, and it was wonderful to walk in the door with the aroma of beef stew waiting to greet the family.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe, without any confusion or complexity, really. Just a good, warm meal after a busy day. We enjoyed ours with homemade bread & honey butter. It was perfect.
Begin by thawing 1- to 1.5-lbs. stew meat. I’ve found I can get the most bang for my buck if I buy several pounds’ worth in the big “Family Packs” when my local butcher’s counter has them discounted–I just take it home, divide it up into smaller portions, and freeze individual bags. Big savings, small effort!
Chop an onion into large chunks and throw in the bottom of your slow-cooker. Add about 6 chopped carrots and about 2-3 cups red potato chunks.(I leave the skins still on my potatoes because sometimes I won’t get home until 9+ hours later and the skins seem to prevent the potatoes from mushing when you open the lid and begin to stir the finished stew after all that time…)
Slice 1 celery rib into small pieces and add to cooker, but don’t overdo it–celery doesn’t have to play as big a role in this dish as in its similar cousin dish, Pot Roast.
Toss in about 1 cup frozen peas and sprinkle well with salt/pepper. Add garlic powder to taste.
Add the stew meat over the vegetables and spread around a little bit. Pour undrained contents of 2 (15-oz) cans tomatoes (I used whole) over stew.
Chef’s Note: My mother cans her own tomatoes from the garden, and they’re just a wonderful addition to stews like this one, although there’s nothing wrong with store-bought ones, of course. (Except that they’re not free like these were!) 🙂
Add 1 cup cranberry juice. 100% juice and/or juice cocktail blends are both fine, but absolutely no light or diet! (Splenda-flavored beef, anyone?)
You can use additional seasoning at this point if you like (bay leaves, mustard seed, etc.), but I kind of enjoy the straightforward flavors of the meat and vegetables after they’ve simmered all day in fruit juice.
Fill the remainder of your Crock Pot with broth or water (or combination) to the 3/4-full mark. Don’t worry–it won’t come out too brothy; you’ve got a lot of porous root vegetables in there. And besides, a little broth is good.
Cover; let simmer on LOW setting 7-9 hours.
Enjoy with homemade bread and honey butter while wearing your wooliest pair of socks. 🙂