Every few weeks, I gather my pennies and buy a nice piece of meat from my happy farmer’s market vendors. I like the challenge of picking out a random cut and learning to cook it with love. If I am going to spend the money on a well-raised meat product, I want to cook it up special.
I recently picked up some stew beef (before that was lamb merguez sausages for a spicy pasta dish. woah!). For a week, the stew beef sat in the freezer as I threw around ideas on what to make with it. My farmer’s market vendor mentioned beef carnitas, which sounded like a nice way to ring in the summer–a meal of beef carnitas, charred tortillas, avocados galore, and summer tomatoes.
But somehow I got hooked on the idea of a simmering beef stew. Yes, a simmering beef stew, in the middle of July. I guess I like to torture myself (see: last year’s carrot cake with cream cheese frosting). On the other hand, all of the food magazines (and fashion, too!) are prepping for their winter issues in the middle of summer, so I am simply blending in with the crowd on that front.
After flipping through recipes and asking trusted cooks well versed in meat, beef bourguignon was the answer. But alas, I don’t have a Dutch oven. My roommate, however, has a slow cooker, and it was high time I thought to use it.
To help me get in the mood, I watched this video all the way through at least twice, maybe more (oh hush!).
This recipe is involved. But having the slow cooker do most of the actual cooking helps out a ton. I divided the cooking process into 2 days. Day 1 was my slow cooking of the beef. On day 2, I re-heated the beef in the slow cooker and added in sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions, and some more red wine!
I served my beef bourguignon with lightly buttered egg noodles and a rustic romaine salad with some slivered almonds. And some bread on the side, with olive oil and salt for dipping and sprinkling.
Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon
**I used less meat than Julia recommends. Why? Because meat can get expensive, and using less of it is better for me, you, the animals, and the environment. 1 1/2 pounds of meat can stretch to feed a lot of people when it is bulked up with delicious buttery vegetables and red wine sauce. A little meat + a lot of veg=my idea of a great meal.
For the Slow-Cooked Beef:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 lbs stew beef, cut into rustic cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves minced garlic
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine (I used a beaujolais wine)
salt and pepper, to taste
For the Braised Pearl Onions:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
18-24 pearl onions, peeled (I used frozen ones and defrosted them before cooking)
1/2 cup of chicken broth or red wine
For the Sautéed Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 lb of mushrooms
Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the stew beef and sauté until browned on all sides. Place the browned beef in the slow cooker pot.
In the same pan, add a dash more oil and sauté the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, tomato paste, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the broth and wine and stir. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker pot with the beef. Cover and cook on low setting for 7-8 hours.
Once the meat is tender, pour the contents of the slow cooker pot into a sieve set over a saucepan. Return the contents back to the slow cooker pot.
**At this point, you can let the beef mixture and the sauce cool and set it in the refrigerator overnight. If you are eating right away, continue with the rest of the recipe.
Skim the fat, if any, off of the top of the sauce. Slowly heat the sauce until it thickens slightly. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Follow the directions for the pearl onions and mushrooms. Once they are sautéed and ready, add them to the slow cooker meat mixture with the reduced sauce and cook on low for 1-2 hours.
Finishing touches may include a cup or so more of red wine, salt and pepper, more garlic….
Serve over buttered egg noodles.
For the Pearl Onions:
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet. Once bubbling, add the peeled onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.
Pour in the 1/2 cup of broth or wine. Simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.
For the Mushrooms:
Place a skillet over high heat with butter and oil. As soon as you see the butter foam subsiding, indicating the pan is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During the sauté the mushrooms will first absorb the fat. In 2-3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.