Tony and I have membership to the Restaurant Depot. I've mentioned it before a long long time ago when I was a happy little blogger, not the ass dragging overworked wage slave that I am now. The recent increase in food costs have driven a few of our friends to inquire about buying costly items like meat in bulk, then divvying it up amongst the group. In particular, steaks and bacon were at the top of the list. (Single guys...go figure.)
As those of you who buy at places like the Depot know, the wholesale cost isn't always as good as a loss leader at a regular store. For example, ten pounds of 80/20 ground beef was $1.99/lb at the Depot. I recently purchased a ten pound bag of 80/20 at Schumann's for $1.79/lb. Not a huge savings, but the quality at Schumann's was better to boot.
Today I picked up a whole ribeye. At $4.99/lb it was not a huge steal, but still good. I spent the afternoon trimming the primal and cutting it up into steaks to be vacuum sealed and put in the freezer against the long dark winter. I had lots of little pieces of meat left so I decided to try my hand at crock pot beef stew.
I will admit to lifting a tip from America's Test Kitchen. Well, they actually got it from someone else. I found lots of references to it on the internet once I looked. The biggest problem with crock pot stews is that they get really watery. With a heavy tight fitting lid, the water never has a chance to escape, plus you have lots of liquid coming out of the foods in the pot - you can see how it would end up meat-flavored water real fast. The instant tapioca was a great fix, and it left no floury aftertaste as if I had poured the broth into a pan on the stove and thickened it with a slurry, which is what I have done in the past.
True, I think its a huge cheat. I would must rather do it the old fashioned way, stews and soups taste so much better on the stove. Of course, when you still have to do things like run your 17 yr old daughter to the store to buy $100.00 worth of shoes, crock pots look real nice. (You still owe me $50 for those boots Annie!!!)
The recipe went something like this:
2 pounds of ribeye scraps, generally about 1" square
3 medium onions, fine dice
4 cloves garlic, squooshed
2 T tomato paste
2 pounds of potatoes, cut into large dice
1 pound of turnips, cut into large dice
1.5 pounds of carrots, cut into large dice
4 oz of dried mushrooms, re-hydrated and rough chopped
4 cups beef broth, from the freezer (yes, some of my stuff was saved!)
3T instant tapioca
Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and 2 bay leaves
Sprinkle a little salt onto the meat. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil into a pan - I used a cast iron skillet. Get good and hot; brown off the meat. Remove to slow cooker. Lower heat to medium. Add onions to skillet and cook until transparent. Add in garlic and tomato paste. Cook briefly until you can smell the garlic. Remove to slowcooker. Add broth to pan and deglaze. Pour into slow cooker.
Add veggies and tapioca. Season to taste and throw in the bay leaves. Cook on low for about 6 hours. Taste towards end of cooking and adjust seasoning. I've been known to saute up another onion and a couple more cloves of garlic to toss in towards the end. The stew tends to have a flat taste after cooking so long and you need to brighten up the flavors. A shot of Tabasco or Worcestershire isn't bad either.
The stew went into the fridge overnight. We'll see how the tapioca reheats. Also, I plan on freezing half for a future dinner, so we'll see how the tapioca freezes as well.
News Flash: The stew reheated fine - but it never got frozen due to the fact that it was eaten very quickly. I also never got a picture of it. My camera is having issues. Ah - when it rains it pours!