Friday, November 17, 2006

Everything Comes After Stew...

"This was after stew, but so is everything. When the first man first clambered from the slime and made his first home on land, what he had for supper that first night was stew." (This is an excerpt from my very favorite book in the whole wide world, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Yes, it's the same book on which the wonderful Rob Reiner movie is based, but the book is even better, trust me! It is laugh-out-loud hilarious!)

Nothing makes me feel better about efficient, so Martha-like...than managing to get a meal going in the crock pot before I leave for work in the morning and returning home to a dinner that has already been cooked for me that evening! It's like having your own kitchen staff in a homey little counter-top appliance. This time, the goal was stew because Cyd had been bugging me to make some, and because we managed to unearth a hunk of sirloin that had gone unnoticed for Lord knows how long in the big freezer. To fashion the stew, I took some general guidance from one of my favorite food writers, Laurie Colwin, and from her marvelous memoir, Home Cooking.

First, I cut up about 2 1/2 pounds of sirloin into bite-sized chunks. I seasoned the pieces liberally with salt, pepper, and paprika, and then tossed them around in about a cup of flour until coated. Then I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and browned the beef in two batches along with two minced cloves of garlic per batch (that's four cloves total for the math-impaired). I added the first batch of browned beef (say that fast a few times--it's fun!) to the bottom of the crock pot. Then I sliced up a couple of ribs of celery and a very large, peeled onion, and cut maybe four large, peeled carrots into chunks. I placed half of this veggie mix on top of the first batch of beef, and then added two medium potatoes that I had also peeled and cut into chunks (though you may leave your potatoes unpeeled if you prefer). On top of the potato layer, I added the second batch of browned beef, the rest of the veggie mix, and another couple of cut-up potatoes.

In the now-empty skillet, I stirred together a small can of tomato paste, a 15-oz. can of diced tomatoes, a couple of cups of beef broth, a cup of good red wine, a glug or two of worcestershire sauce, two bay leaves, a small handful of parsley, and a goodly amount of both salt and pepper. I cooked this down for just 4 or 5 minutes to deglaze the pan of its yummy brown bits and to cook off most of the alcohol in the wine. Then I poured it all over the layers of would-be stew, covered the crock pot and turned it on high for about six hours. When Cyd got home, the vegetables were tender, so she turned it down to low and added some more beef broth until it was the preferred consistency. Then when I got home, I steamed some long-grained rice to serve the stew over (though Laurie Colwin prefers buttered noodles, rice is a holdover from my mom's cooking--we were big rice-eaters at my house as my dad was Hawaiian), and that was that. Easy-peasy!


Anonymous said...

Crockpot to the rescue!, Now, do you do crockpot stuffing? I've done this for the last couple years and am happy with the results, enough dressing for everyone!

Oh, re: stew, I like over rice also, but exclusively for chicken or turkey leftovers, stewed with onions, celery etc.. over chinese noodles. There's just something about the texture of the chinese noodes that holds up well, and justs hits the spot!

Anonymous said...

omg, i just love Laurie Colwin. I used to get gourmet just for her articles. So fabulous. I was so sad when I heard she died.