Category Archives: slow cooking

Where’s the Beef Beef Stew

I’m officially embarrassed.astew

I’m preparing to cook dinner tonight for my in-laws, and my beloved is out of town, spending a frighteningly well-deserved weekend at the beach with her best friend, knitting and bird watching and beach walking, and ice-cream eating (and heaven only knows what else), and I’m planning to make a recipe from my mother-in-law’s recipe box, a recipe I’ve made dozens of times; it’s maybe my favorite recipe from my wife’s recipe box

So, because I love the recipe so much, I wrote about it in my column a couple of years back, then went looking for the recipe on this site, because the recipe card is worn to the point of not being so readable.

And so, I discovered that this recipe, perhaps one of my all-time favorites, is nowhere to be found on this site. One can Google it, one can search  for it in the newspaper’s archives, or one could come over here and try to decipher the recipe card.

Or one could read it right now. Here. Where it ought to be.

This is beef stew.  Simple, straightforward, and oh, so yummy, that it is likely to become your go-to beef stew recipe of all times.

But because we don’t eat red meat around here any more, I’ve adapted the recipe to our own liking, using chicken thighs instead of beef. Weird, huh?   Okay, let’s call it chicken-thigh stew.  But it’s so hearty that you’ll think of it as beef stew with a difference.

So what I’m going to do here is to re-publish the column I wrote for the paper, and let you see the whole reconstruction plan.  If you want the real beef stew recipe, read through the column to the end, or skip to the bottom for the original.  Either way, it’s a winner.

From the Lancaster Sunday News

A Family Favorite Gets Reimagined, Renamed

Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:06 am | Updated: 11:59 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

It’s just a little tin box. You probably have one in your kitchen.

But oh, the treasures inside.

The box, adorned with homey images from a simpler time, is stuffed full of 3×5 index cards that Ellen got from her mother. On these cards – faded with age, occasionally smudged with gravy, handwriting made gauzy by the heat and humidity of a working kitchen – is a treasury of recipes collected over decades from friends and family and handed down from generation to generation.

The box contains an amazing range of tastes – from “Adele’s Cereal” to “Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole,” to “Porcupine Meat Balls” to “Zucchini Chocolate Cake”. Many of the recipes are from that simpler time, when “fat” was what “healthy” babies were, and when the family cook had most of the day to plan and execute the evening meal, including a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

That’s why this particular recipe caught my eye, and eventually my fancy. It reminded me of meals from my childhood. It was called “Marge Mason Stew.” My mother-in-law’s neighbor many years ago, Marge had created the perfect beef stew recipe – comfort-food good, and very simple. But more to the point, it can be adapted to almost any taste, including for folks who don’t eat red meat, like my family. Having made, and played with, the recipe dozens of times, I now use turkey or chicken thigh meat as a replacement for fatty beef cubes. This produces a stew that is almost identical in flavor and texture to beef stew, lower in fat and totally satisfying. And in a busy world, this recipe is perfect for a slow cooker.

But since this is now turkey stew, and I’ve added a couple of ingredients Marge didn’t have in her original recipe, I can no longer, in good faith, call it “Marge Mason Stew.” Now we call it …

MARGE SIMPSON STEW

1 1/2 pounds boneless turkey thigh meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup red wine

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Reduce vegetable broth in a saucepan until only 1 cup remains.

Place the flour, salt, pepper and ginger in a large food-storage bag, shake well, then add half the turkey cubes to the bag. Close the bag, and shake well until the turkey cubes are coated with the flour mixture. Place the flour-coated cubes into the pot and stir until they are fully browned and firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat cubes to a bowl.

Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if necessary.

Return the original batch to the pot, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the broth, and 1/2 cup of wine, bring to a boil, and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add the herbs and ketchup. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and remaining wine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for an additional hour, adding the peas in the last 15 minutes. Serve when the potatoes are tender.

To make this stew in a slow cooker, brown the meat in a heavy pan, deglaze the pan with the wine, place the meat and the glaze in the crock, cover with the remaining ingredients, and cook on the low setting for 8 hours.

Also, double the recipe. It gets better in the fridge.

Marge Mason Stew

Ingredients:aHeartyBeefStew

1 pound stew beef (beef tips are best)

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 can beef consomme

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, dried thyme, paprika

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

4 baby red potatoes, quartered

3/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/3 cup ketchup

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut meat into 1/2-inch cubes. Prepare a large plastic bag with flour, salt, pepper, ginger. Place half the meat in the bag, toss to coat, and brown in batches in a large, heavy-bottom stew pot to sear. Remove from the pot, repeat with the remaining meat, and set aside

Add the consomme and garlic to the pot and simmer, stirring to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Then add 1/2 cup wine, herbs, tomato paste,  and ketchup, and stir well to mix.  Simmer for 1.5 hours.  Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and the remaining wine. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another hour.

Serve immediately.

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Bacon-Maple Slow-Cooker Baked Beans

Got a hankering for baked beans.12831_boston_baked_beans_600

Sure, it’s cute watching Jay Bush and his golden retriever Duke, who seems to be on a mission to sell the secret recipe, like any capitalist dog would be.  Makes you want some beans.  Or a golden retriever.  Makes me want neither.  Bush’s Beans are probably a perfectly fine product, but I’ve always been a B&M kind of guy, and I’m not particularly fond of dogs, although I’ve grown to love my wild and crazy German shorthaired pointers, Argos and Maggie (Argos, I should point out, has no interest in selling any of my recipes; he has a one-track agenda, which is to eat everything I cook.  Maggie, on the other hand, would sell my recipes in a heartbeat if she thought she could turn a profit; she’s probably the most dedicated capitalist in the family).

But I digress (I hate when I do that).

I was reading someplace recently that some kid’s favorite food was baked-bean sandwiches–homemade baked beans on fresh homemade bread–and I got to thinking about that.  Could that be nature’s perfect food?  The writer was recounting how such sandwiches ignited his love of all things food and how they inspired him to become a chef.  It started, he says, because he couldn’t find a pile of baked beans anywhere near as good as the scratch batches his grandmother made for him.  I can relate.  I was raised on the cooking of a wonderful woman who came from the Piedmont of Virginia, where home-grown pork and chickens and corn and cabbages and greens were on the table every day.  She made her baked beans (and everything else) from scratch, and the tale of baked-bean sandwiches massaged a longing in me I hadn’t felt in quite a while.

Consequently, I got a hankering for baked beans.

Lily Jones was not available to make me beans, and I’ve never really worked up a recipe of my own.  So I decided to do some research, find a recipe to start with, and then make it my own.  Something hearty, flavorful, bold, and memorable.

I must have read 500 recipes.  What I kept coming back to was a fabulous website chock full of recipes that use beer as the principal ingredient.  Beer!  That’s the ticket!  But not just any beer.  It needed to be thick, dark, malty, nutty–hair-raising.  I found a recipe that resonated, and then kept reading, comparing each next one I found to the one that sang to me, and not one measured up.

And then, I made the beans.  Incredible.  Salved my hankering, my wife, the remarkable Ellen, followed up with a honey-Hefeweisen boule made with a locally brewed winter wheat beer, and voila! Baked-bean sandwiches for the Gods.

Next, I had to make the recipe my own.  The recipe on the website is perfect as is.  But it’s not mine, alas, and I thought I could improve it.  Guess what:  I couldn’t.  It’s perfect as is.  The only thing I did change was to use turkey bacon (we don’t eat much pork around here) cooked in two teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil; and instead of a smoky porter I used Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout.

Try this if you want perfect beans.  And if you want a perfect bean sandwich, make the bread, too.  It’s almost as simple to make as the beans–no kneading, just rest and love.

Slow Cooker Maple Bacon Beer Baked Beansbeer

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound Great Northern beans
  • ½ lbs Navy beans
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon (I used turkey bacon)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons full-flavor molasses
  • ¼ cup real maple syrup
  • 2 cups smoked porter beer (I used Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fine ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Preparation:

  • Place the beans in a large pot with 3 cups of water.  Cover and bring the pot to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes.   Remove from the heat and soak for 8-12 hours; overnight is good.  Rinse with cold water and drain.
  • Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat, remove bacon from pan. Add the onions to the bacon grease, cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Chop the bacon.
  • Add the bacon, onions, drained beans and remaining ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low, stirring once or twice during cooking. If beans are still firm after 8-10 hours, turn to high and cook for an additional 2 hours.

And now the bread:

Honey Hefeweizen Boule Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 4 ¼ (19 wt oz) cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (2 ¼ tsp) rapid rise yeast
  • ¼ cup honey
  • pinch salt
  • 12 ounces wheat beer*
  • egg wash (1 egg, 1 teaspoon water, beaten)

Preparation:boule1

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add the flour and yeast, mix to combine.
  • Heat the beer to between 120 and 130F degrees.
  • Add the beer and the honey to the flour, beat on high until dough gathers around the hook and is no longer sticky, about 6 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Place a baking stone in the oven, preheat for 30 minutes prior to baking.
  • Once the dough has risen, place a bread peel (or a sheet of parchment paper) on a flat surface, cover in cornmeal or semolina flour. Grab the dough in your heads, folding it into itself gently a few times, then form into a tight ball. Place on the peel (or parchment paper), allowing to rise for about 30 minutes.
  • Brush the top with egg wash, slash an “X” on top of the loaf using a sharp knife.
  • Transfer the dough to the pizza stone using either the peel or by simply placing the parchment paper on top of the heated stone (if you don’t own a bread stone, just place the parchment on top of a baking sheet and set that into the oven when you are ready to bake).
  • Bake at 400 until top is a dark golden brown and makes a hollow “thump” sound when tapped, about 30 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Notes

*This recipe is for a very low IBU (low hop) beer. If all you have is a pale ale, IPA or hoppy wheat, use 3/4 cup beer and 3/4 cup hot water or the beer taste will be overpowering.

And to Jackie Dodd, “The Beeroness,” I offer a toast:  Jackie (wwwthebeeroness.com), you’ve won my heart.  Or more accurately, my appetite.

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this “Ellen’s Favorite Soup,” because there are an awful lot of soups that she likes.peanut soup But let’s just say this, and let the evidence stand for itself: She made a batch of this soup a few weeks ago, and I had a second bowl for dinner, leaving none for leftovers the following day. She was really steamed. She doesn’t get steamed very often, and even when she does, she rarely shows it. But leaving her no Thai chicken soup? I certainly won’t let THAT happen again.

So what is this liquid gold that gets her gussie all bundled up in a batch? The ingredient list alone is enough to make a foodie swoon: red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk, fresh ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce. Wow! My taste buds are shifting into overdrive even as I type this. It’s a darn good thing that there’s a batch on the kitchen counter as we speak. Smells fabulous. Mix those ingredients together with the rest of the list, and you have a dish made for the Gods.

Well, the gods of Thailand, anyway.

And to boot, because it’s a slow-cooker thing, the whole pot can be thrown together in just minutes, you can leave the house for the day, and come home to the dancing fragrance of this wonderful batch of creaminess filling the kitchen with the aromas of Southeast Asia.

That’s a good thing.

So here’s the scoop on this scoopable:

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 12-ounce cans coconut milk

2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼” slices

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Cilantro for garnish

Chopped peanuts for garnish

2 cups cooked white rice

Preparation:

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, onion, red bell pepper in the crock, cover and cook for 4 hours on high or seven hours on low.
  1. Add the peas and cook for ½ hour longer. Stir in the lime juice, serve in heavy bowls garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and peanuts and a bowl of white rice. The rice can be added to the soup at the table. Or not.

Dessert for Breakfast–but Healthy!

Slow-Cooker Apple-Cinnamon Steel-cut OatmealP1100560

What a surprise I had this morning!  The house was infused with the deep, rich aroma of baking apples and cinnamon–you’d think we were baking an apple crisp.

Apple crisp?  First thing on a Sunday morning?  Scandalous.  Outrageous.  Unheard of.

But yummy, and way healthy, too!

My partner and muse conjured up a breakfast that I think I could eat every single day.  Sweet and fruity, tasty and stick-to-the-ribs.  But so healthy  that your body would think it was getting something that didn’t taste good.

Ah, to fool Mother Nature!

The Holy Grail of cooking is to make food that is so tasty that you want more and more, but at the same time is good for you.  Not too many things fit that bill.  This one does.  You really need to do this one.  The really interesting part is just how simple it is.  Ten minutes before bed, and in the morning, voila!  Hot and sweet and tasty and healthy, all in the same cup.

Do it for yourself.  Do it for your family.  Do it because, even if you can’t cook a lick, you can do this one.

Make it.  Today.

Ingredients:

2 apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (or substitute non-dairy alternative–like almond milk)

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats

2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup

1 1/2  tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoons ground flax seed

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Optional toppings:  chopped nuts, raisins, maple syrup, additional milk, butter, dried fruit–whatever suits you

Preparation:

Coat the inside of a 4-quart slow-cooker with cooking spray.  Add all ingredients (except optional garnishes).  Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours.  Serve in 3/4-cup servings with optional toppings, if desired.  Store leftovers in the fridge, and it freezes beautifully.

To reheat single serving, portion into microwaveable bowls, add 1/3 cup skim milk or almond milk, and microwave 1 minute, stir well, cook another minute, or until hot.

Oh yes, and it’s only 4 Weight-Watchers Points Plus points per 3/4-cup serving.

This recipe comes to you courtesy of Monica Matheny, from  her terrific blog, The Yummy Life (www.theyummylife.com).  Check it out!  Lots of good, healthy recipes.

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