Friday, October 5, 2012

Where are you, Fall?

I don't know about you but I am ready for Fall to get here. 
It is October 5th and we are still wearing shorts and sandals. 
Halloween is a mere 25 days away and no leaves have turned, there is no crispness in the air.
Fall? Are you there?

In my best efforts to will Fall to come I keep making beef stew. I bought a new crockpot on Monday just for the occasion. I've never really been much of a crockpot person - for some reason I can't ever get the food cooked in the crockpot to come out well. Why are the easiest things always so hard for me (see: Rice Crispy Treats)?! 

Then I realized the problem might not be me... but my crock pot. You see, I inherited my first crockpot. from my mom - she had extras (what?!) so she gave me one. It was lovely, decent sized... but always seemed to run a bit hot and would incinerate whatever was in it. I also have a theory that it was, in fact, too big and that worked against me - too much hot surface, not enough food... something like that. 

So with some birthday money in my hot, little hand I decided to go look for a new one. And for a mere $19.99, on sale, I found this beauty... complete with sassy floral print. 
Say what?
SO cute, right?! Actually.. I probably would have picked just a plain one but they didn't have any available so sassy print came home with me. This one is actually smaller than my previous - she's only 4 quarts - but I think that is perfect... there are only 2.5 of us eating from it. 

And I'm super excited about her "lockable"lid - it says "take me to the chili cook-off!"

Ok - enough about my crockpot. Sheesh!


First, you start with the cornerstone for almost all soups - the mirepoix: Onion, Carrot, Celery (and in this case, shallot, too). 

Funny thing is that I actually don't like celery or carrots at all. I prefer my carrots baked into cake and covered with cream cheese frosting... but have no taste for them otherwise. And celery... really, I just don't see the point. 

But they work so well with their onion companions in soup base! Even I can admit they make soup better! So, we start there.
 I dice my veggies pretty small. I feel like that way they get integrated into the soup and pick up all the flavors. 

Oh - by the way - we got a new camera this weekend - hopefully you are enjoying the upgraded quality of my pictures. I definitely need to work on my food modeling skills but at least the quality is better, right?! 
 For beef stew, I prefer to use these little fingerling potatoes. They are a great size - just cut them in half or quarters and toss them in. Plus, they're just so cute! (And no peeling required! Amen to that!)
 I like to brown the meat before putting it in the crock pot. It gives the meat a bit better flavor and who doesn't want better flavor? It does add a bit of extra time to the prep but it is worth it.
 Once the meat is done, I toss my onions, shallots & garlic in the same pan to cook down a bit - get nice an soft, pick up some of the flavor from the meat juice. 
 Then the best part - deglazing the pan with some wine & broth. Deglazing picks up all the little "bits" of meat goodness of the btm of the pan. Those little bits are flavor gold. 
 Everyone is in the crockpot and ready to spend a nice 10 hours hanging out and turning into a delicious dinner. 
 And, here it is! I added a bit more liquid to this batch of beef stew out of habit (see above: previous crockpot liked to incinerate food) but it just meant we had to have bread with our stew to sop up all that extra broth. Heck, yes!
I have to say, I definitely see the genius behind coming home to dinner being completed. Drew and I walked in the door last night and within minutes were happily digging in to dinner. My new crockpot did amazing and I am thinking that maybe I will try some other crockpot dinners very soon.  So stay tuned!

As for Fall... I wish you would come. I have a new crockpot that is asking for more soups... and new brown boots that are just aching to come out of their box. 

Cheers to the cook!

Beef Stew - adapted from All Recipes

1-1 1/2 lbs Beef Stew Meat (or whatever your beef preference is), cubed
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper, ground
1-2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, diced
1 Shallot, diced
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 pkt Beef Stew Mix (McCormick is what I typically use)
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup Red Wine
1 1/2 cup Beef or Chicken Broth (You can use more if you like a bit more broth. For the above, I used 2 cups)
2 Celery stalks, diced
3 Carrots, diced
3/4-1 cup Fingerling Potatoes, cut in half or quarters (you can use more or less potatoes to your preference)

1. Spray your crockpot with non-stick spray. Place flour, salt & pepper in a plastic bag. Add raw meat and shake to coat. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add flour-coated meat, browning on all sides before adding to crockpot. You may have to brown the meat in batches - you do not want to crowd the meat or it won't brown properly. Do not clean out pan.

2. In the same frying pan, add onion, garlic & shallot to soften over medium heat - roughly 2-3 minutes. Add to the crock pot.

3. Add wine, Worcestershire sauce & 1/2c broth to the pan to deglaze. Keep heat at medium-high, using a wooden spoon, stir the liquid while scraping the bottom of the frying pan to pick up all of the bits of meat that are stuck to the bottom. Add liquid to the crockpot.

4. Add all remaining ingredients (including remaining broth), cover & cook on the Low setting for 10-12 hours or High setting for 4-6 hours.

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