Joys of the crockpot and the beef

Posted on November 7, 2010


Now that the weather is getting cooler, I am totally into crockpot beef stew.


The beef. I try to buy the cheapest beef per pound.  This usually means that I look for a thick, cheap cut that is nearly about to expire!  Usually they’re not quite iffy yet at that point, and even if they are, 4 hours in a slow cooker takes care of it.  From there I either make it immediately, or more often than not, I cube it (easier to do it now than later) and toss it in a ziplock bag and freeze it.  Again, after 4 hours of slow cooking, you’re not able to tell the difference between frozen and not.  Note: when using a frozen block of pre-cubed beef, I usually tack on another hour in the pot.

The tomato base. You don’t HAVE to use a tomato base in a stew, but most people do, any you wouldn’t want to be that weird one person, would you?  I’ve tried using Campbell’stomato soup, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste.  In my opinion the tomato paste produces the best results; I’ll use up to an ounce/cup of water.  The Campbell’s tomato soup is tasty, but I think it drowns out the beef flavor too much.

The root vegetables. This is the fun part.  I love exploring my grocery store for root vegetables.  The classic, is, of course, the carrot.  This belongs in any stew.  Next up is the turnip, that round white and purple thing.  Love ’em!  My next favorite is the rutabaga, which tastes like a cross between a turnip and a cabbage.  One downside is they’re terribly hard to cut.  And of course, then there’s the parsnip.  It kind of looks like a carrot, and it has this weird bitter taste that you can taste in carrots that are really big or not very sweet.  I think of the parsnip as the carrot’s inferior but very similar cousin.  And last, but not least, the potato.  Well, actually, least, because my husband refuses to entertain a potato in his beef stew.  But most people like them.  He’s that one weird person.

Celery. Why celery is the lone none-root veggie to make it into stews I’ll never know.  Well, actually, I do… most root veggies hold up to intense cooking.  So does celery.  I buy this “Michigan Grown” celery which is more bitter and tough than normal celery, but people buy it because it’s “local.”  I buy it because the bitterness disappears in the stew and the toughness is an advantage in that context.  Also because it wilts less quickly.

Directions: Throw everything into a crockpot on high and cook for 4+ hours.  Oh, and you should probably add AT LEAST 2 cups of water, but probably more depending on what kind of base you’re using.  Serve over egg noodles.

Posted in: Hacks, Recipes