Do you have a crock pot? I didn’t think I did. Then one day last year I decided to clean out my pantry. And low and behold, what did I find tucked at the very back of the top shelf? A brand-spankin’ new crock pot.
I thought “Now where did this come from?” As I was scratching my head in puzzlement, I opened the lid and lying inside was a gift card from Goldsmith’s Department Store (which by the way has been a Macy’s for a long, long time). The enclosure read “Best Wishes! Happy Cooking!” It seems this long-forgotten crock pot had been a wedding present. It had been tucked away waiting patiently to be used for over 11 (Yes…I said 11!) years!
Neither my parents nor my grandparents had a crock pot so I had never used one before. It was one of those wedding gifts where I appreciated the thought…but I didn’t really have a use for it. (Now that I have discovered it, I am so glad that I didn’t gift it to Goodwill like I had that huge Japanese rice cooker I had gotten.)
As chance would happen, my sister had recently been telling me about this great beef stew she had made. So I decided to give it a try in my “new” crock pot. Before heading off to work that morning, I browned the meat and threw all the ingredients in. With a bit of skepticism, I turned the pot on and headed out the door. I thought “This is too easy to be true. Will this taste good? Will it be done when I get home?”
When I opened my back door hours later, I was hit by the delicious aroma of wine, tomatoes and garlic. I rushed over to the pot and lifted the lid. I was thrilled to discover a simmering pot of juicy and tender beef stew. The beef literally fell apart at the touch and the tomatoes, wine and beef had rendered a delicious sauce. I though “Wow! Paul is going to think I spent all day in the kitchen!”
All that was left for me to do was boil a pot of rice. (Heck…maybe I should have kept that Japanese rice cooker!) And since I had used a little wine to deglaze my browning pan, I also had almost a full bottle open to enjoy with my “no-effort” gourmet dinner!
So, here is a recipe that will turn even the most skeptical slow cooker skeptic into a crock pot enthusiast!
P.S.: I am still trying to build up my crock pot recipe repertoire, so feel free to share your favorite slow cooker recipes!
Crock Pot Beef Stew
This is one of my favorite work-day dishes. I place everything in the crock pot before I head off to work…and when I come home, I have a delicious home-cooked meal waiting to be served.
4 pounds chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup good red wine, such as a Merlot or Shiraz
1 can (28-ounce) whole tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
2 bay leaves
Generously season the meat with salt and pepper.
In a large cast-iron skillet over medium–high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle in the pot. Working in two batches so as not to over crowd the pan, cook the meat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Place the meat in a crock pot. Pour the red wine into the skillet, scraping the brown bits off the bottom, to deglaze the pan. Pour the wine mixture into the crock pot.
Add the whole tomatoes to the crock pot, breaking them up with a spoon or fork. Add the garlic, carrots, and the bay leaves. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm.
Cooking Tip: If you do not have a crock pot, you can still make this dish. Instead of putting the ingredients into a crock pot, place them in a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot with a lid and bake in a 250 degree oven for 3 hours.