Until I started writing this blog, I had no idea there were days that celebrated various foods. Some, like National Peanut Butter Cookie Day and National Pigs in a Blanket Day, are observed once a year (June 12 and April 24 respectively). Others have a whole month devoted to them. For instance, January is National Slow Cooking Month. I love cooking with a slow cooker, also known as a crock-pot, and post a recipe every January in honor of this time saving appliance.
Over the last 2 1/2 years, I've shared a number of slow cooker recipes: Chicken a la King; Chili; Queso Dip; Barbecue Chicken; French Dip Sandwiches; Pot Roast with Vegetables. Today, I want to share my favorite stew recipe. It's different from a lot of stew recipes in that the only vegetable it uses is mushrooms. This is ideal for me since I don't like meat in vegetable soup and I don't like vegetables in my stew!
Stew meat -- boneless precut cubes usually from tougher cuts of meat -- is combined with dry onion soup mix, beef broth, mushroom stems and pieces and a can of undiluted cream of mushroom soup. Put the mixture in the slow cooker, cover with the lid and turn to low. I cook the stew eight hours, but it can be cooked as long as 12 hours.
The broth is thin so I thicken it with a slurry at the end of the cooking time. Slurry is a fancy name for a thin paste made from equal parts water and starch -- cornstarch or flour -- used as a thickener. I prefer cornstarch for several reasons. One, it has twice the thickening power of flour. One tablespoon of cornstarch is equal to two tablespoons of flour. Two, cornstarch keeps the broth clear; flour turns it opaque. Three, cornstarch only needs to be mixed with cold water, unlike flour which has to be cooked to lose the raw taste.
You can whisk the cornstarch into the water or, what I do, combine the ingredients in a small bowl with a lid and shake until the cornstarch is dissolved.
If I have time, I stir the mixture into the slow cooker and let the stew cook another hour. If not, I put the slow cooker liner on the stove top, stir in the slurry and cook until the broth is thickened. Not all slow cooker liners cans be used on the stove top so read the directions that came with your slow cooker before you attempt this.
I serve the stew with noodles and a vegetable. I serve English peas in the winter and coleslaw in the summer. The stew is also good with mashed potatoes in place of the noodles.
There's nothing better than coming home to the aroma of a fully cooked meal. With a slow cooker, that can be a reality all year long!