Monday, October 10, 2022

Joey's Slow Cooker Bean and Beef Stew


  Whenever we transition from Summer to Autumn, my way of cooking changes too. Suddenly, we go from cookouts and grilling to making large pots of stews and soups. I'm immediately reminded of going back to school and then returning home to the intoxicating aroma of whatever my Mother had cooking on the stove that day. 
  This year, instead of a slow transition from warm Summer days into crisper Autumn nights, it seemed like Summer clocked out on its very last calendar day, and we jumped right into Autumn. I kept thinking "whoa, that was abrupt! Time to make a pot of stew!" And so, after thinking about it for a little while, I decided to find a new beef stew recipe for just a little variety. 
  As I was browsing recipes, I found a slow cooker recipe that had beans, beef, and potatoes. Nothing else, that was it, thrown into a crock pot. My first thought was "hmm....that's probably pretty bland." No seasonings, no aromatics, nothing. Just beans, beef, and potatoes. OK, lets build on this, shall we? I bought a few ingredients, and got down to business. I started throwing things into the slow cooker, and before I knew it, I had basically just made a tweaked version of my beef stew, with the addition of baked beans. OK! Lets run with it and see where it lands!
  HOLY BEEF STEW, Batman! Why have we never added beans to beef stew before?? It's fabulous!! Not only does it add body to the sauce, it adds a fabulous, almost velvety texture to the gravy. I thought, "oh this would be perfect with some freshly baked corn bread!" Yum!
 I threw it together and let it cook overnight, just because I knew I would want it for earlier in the day, and then it occurred to me that this would be the perfect plan for your Trick or Treaters. 
 When I was growing up, my Mother always had a huge pot of something cooking on the stove all day for Halloween. It was great because we had a houseful of kids, all coming and going at different times, and this was the perfect thing whenever we returned home. It was love in a bowl, and it always warmed us right up. Plus, Mom always said it was easier because there was no worry of trying to fix dinner while answering the door all day giving treats to the neighboring ghouls and goblins. 
So, prep this the night before Halloween, let it slow cook all night, and you'll be ready for the next day. Keep this recipe handy for winter too. It'll warm you up on the snowiest of days!!
If you like beef stew and/or baked beans, you must give this a try!!!

2 lbs stewing beef cubes
1-2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved
1-2 lbs baby carrots
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 28oz can pork and beans
1 10oz jar beef gravy
1 1/2  tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tbs soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste 
2 heaping tbs corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

If the beef cubes are large, cut them in half. 
Place all ingredients except the cornstarch and water in a large slow cooker. Cover.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours. 
In a small bowl, stir together the corn starch and cold water to make a slurry. 
Add to the stew. Gently stir to combine.
The sauce will gradually thicken. 
Serve with corn bread, or a hearty crusty bread with lots of butter. 

-For an extra added campfire vibe, add about a 1/2 cup of your favorite smokey BBQ sauce. If everyone isn't keen on BBQ sauce, just add a little to your bowl when serving!
-I mentioned cutting the beef cubes in half because I believe they should be bite sized. Sometimes, they leave them in such giant chunks, you can barely even fit them in your mouth! They need to be cut down.  
-Using baby potatoes and baby carrots eliminates the need for peeling and cutting. So much easier! I do like to cut the potatoes in half, though, because of that whole bite sized thing again. Plus, I like the way the look when they're cut in half!
-The amounts of beef, carrots, potatoes, and onions are up to you. I like a lot of potatoes and carrots, so I added 2 lbs of each. Plus adding more potatoes and carrots will make the meal go further! You can literally feed your entire family and only use one little pound of beef. The kids will never know!
-When choosing your brand of baked beans, just go for the basics. There are a million kinds from honey to brown sugar to maple and on and on. In this case, you don't want them to be too sweet. Just the plain original baked beans here. 
-Usually I would use fresh thyme, but in the case of something cooking over a long period of time, I think the dried is just fine. 
-Btw, one of the key ingredients is the soy sauce. You don't really taste it, but it gives you that little bit of savory umami flavor that you want in a beef stew. If you don't have soy sauce, a little Worcestershire sauce or a sprinkle of MSG will do the same thing.
-And as always, when a recipe says "add salt and pepper to taste", it really needs more salt than you think it does. A little sprinkle across the top of the pot isn't gonna cut it. I'm not saying to add a HANDFUL of salt, but you should definitely add a good 2-3 teaspoons of salt and a good teaspoon of black pepper for a whole pot of stew. Did you ever wonder why food at a fancy restaurant always tastes so good? It's because they use enough salt!!! True story.