After the mixed bag that was our last batch of crock pot stew, I was craving an old standard. I wanted Grandma’s stew, not some fancy concoction from Bon Appetit. The sort of thing that you could trust would appear at a tailgate back when I was small and they still had season tickets near the 50 yard line at Kinnick.
I didn’t quite make Grandma’s stew today – thus avoiding the 1 1/2 shakes mystery. What went into the crock pot was closer to “pound stew”, a recipe almost as easy to remember as pound cake: a pound of meat, a pound each of several vegetables, and a bit of gravy to pull it all together. Shane’s only complaint was that it could use more seasoning, which I’m sure we’ll work out in the long winter ahead of us.
Adapted from Kay Fesenmeyer’s recipe and from the Complete Slow Cooker Cookbook
1 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb carrots, peeled, and chopped into 1″ pieces
1 lb potatoes, chopped into 1″ cubes
1 lb tomatoes, diced
1 lb boiling onions, or quartered yellow onions
1 lb mushrooms (didn’t use this time but really want to next time)
1 tbsp oil or bacon fat (we used the latter)
1/4 cup flour
1-2 cups chicken or beef stock
2 tbsp corn starch
salt and freshly ground pepper
Dredge the beef cubes in flour, shaking off the excess. In a medium non-stick pan, warm the fat over medium-high heat, then add the beef and brown on all sides, ~5 minutes. Don’t worry about getting it cooked through, as it’s going to be in the crock pot all day.
Add everything but the corn starch to the crock pot, give it a good stir, and turn the heat to low. Go about your business for 8-10 hours. When you get home, whisk the corn starch in a bowl with a small amount of water, then stir into the liquid in the crock pot. At this point you have two options: turn the crock pot up to high, or carefully pour the liquid into a saucepan to reduce. I’d recommend the latter, as it is faster and also easier to whisk, thereby reducing the likelihood of getting a big blob of cornstarch in your bowl. Don’t worry if a few chunks of food end up in the saucepan – a few extra minutes on the heat isn’t going to hurt them. When the liquid has reduced to a gravy-like consistency, add it back to the pot, and serve with crusty bread to the hungry masses. As presented, this should make about 8 generous portions.