Here in the Northeast U.S., we’ve been hit with winter’s full blast – more snow that I can remember in quite a few years, with still more expected in a few days. Lots of shoveling, but also lots of solid, comforting winter fare, like this beef stew recipe from Michele Scicolone in her cookbook, “The Italian Slow Cooker.” The book is a gem, and in my case, really useful while my kitchen is undergoing a radical transformation. Cooking is relegated to another room in the house, where my table is set up with all manner of electric implements, from my rice cooker to my automatic polenta stirring pot. You’d be surprised at how much cooking you can accomplish without an oven or a cooktop, as long as you’ve got electricity. Washing dishes and pots without a sink is another thing, but thankfully, my husband has become rather adept at bathroom sink dishwashing.
I’ve been using a hot plate to cook most meals, and had to rely on it to brown the meat and prepare the sauce for this stew, before dumping everything into my slow cooker. I bought an induction-heating hot plate and I have to say, it works really efficiently, heating things quickly — almost too quickly, as I found out this morning after burning some orange peels I was candying.
Anyway, back to the beef stew. After you brown the meat in a skillet, you add the rest of the ingredients (including a tablespoon of whole black peppercorns) and scrape up all those flavorful bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Then dump everything into the slow cooker and forget about it.
Come back 6-8 hours later, and you’ve got a delicious, fork-tender beef stew, ready to serve over noodles or rice.
Add a green vegetable on the side, and dinner is served.
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- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2 inch chunks (I used 1¼ lbs. beef cubes but all the rest of the proportions in the recipe for the sauce)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup dry red wine, such as Chianti
- 2 cups canned tomato puree (I used one 15-ounce can cherry tomatoes and ¼ cup water)
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped, plus 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
- On a piece of wax paper, stir together the flour and salt to taste.
- Toss the beef with the flour and shake off any excess.
- In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the meat in batches, without crowding the pan.
- Brown the beef well on all sides.
- With a slotted spoon transfr the beef to a large slow cooker.
- Add the wine to the skillet and bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tomato puree (or the cherry tomatoes and water), garlic, peppercorns, and ground pepper.
- Cook for 10 minutes, orr until slightly thickened.
- Pour the mixture into the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the beef is very tender.
- Taste for seasoning before serving.