Be honest. Nothing beats a good beef stew. Especially when it's cooking all day while you're at work, and you come home to that wonderful aroma. It just speaks comfort. Add in some fresh-baked rolls or dumplings and you've got a combo that can't be beat.
The first time I made the stew for a crowd, it was for a VBS closing dinner. Everyone thought I was nuts, making hot beef stew for 150 people in the heat of August. But when you're doing a old-style cowboy themed program, how can you not serve up chuck wagon stew? There were skeptics who said kids wouldn't eat something so grown up. I'm here to tell you, those who came late for dinner were left out, because adults and kids alike chowed down that stew like they hadn't eaten in a week. You just can't beat good home cooking!
Here's the great thing about stew. You make it early, and then you leave it alone. You have to let it cook long and low to get the meat tender and the flavors blended. So when you have a big group to feed, or you just don't want to be fussing in the kitchen while you have company, this is a terrific choice. Start it in the morning and leave it alone until you're ready to serve.
This stew has morphed over the years as I've changed my methods trying to find the easiest way to get the best taste. I *think* have found my final version. Gone are the days of browning the meat and deglazing the pan, which defeated the purpose of the crock pot, which was to make everything easy! Also, no taking time to thicken the gravy at the end, everything is done up front.
~This recipe translates well when multiplied for a large roaster pan. However, potatoes do not freeze well, so only make enough to eat up in a couple of days.
~This recipe can be adjusted for budget. If you have less money to work with, cut way back on the meat and load it up with more veggies. Just be careful with carrots (too many makes it sweet) and celery (too many, and all you'll taste is celery.)
~Feel free to buy a roast and cut it up, or even to use browned ground beef if that's what you've got. Because of my work schedule, I don't have time to mess with cutting up meat, so I spring for well-trimmed stew beef.
~A loaf of Italian bread or fresh rolls is a terrific accompaniment for this. Dumplings are even better, but not for a crowd. Save those for the intimate family dinners.
~If you're really in a hurry, and don't have time to make a roux in the morning, just put the ingredients in with the broth, and make the roux later. I like to do it ahead of time, because when I get home, I'm too tired to care. ;o)
~This recipe fits well in an 8 quart crock pot, with enough room to not boil over. Beef stew is the only thing I make that consistently boils over! What a mess. Leave an inch of space in the top of the crock to avoid this.
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter
1 1/2 cups white flour
2 quarts beef broth (Pacific Organic)
1/4 cup dry chopped onions
1 T dry basil
1 T dry oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
2-4 tsp sea salt, according to preference
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1-2 lbs well trimmed stew beef
4-6 white potatoes, cleaned and cubed
4 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
~In dutch oven, melt butter, then whisk in flour, allowing it to cook a little as you mix.
~Slowly add in broth, whisking until all is smooth. (Immersion blender is great for this step.)
~Allow to cook and thicken a bit, stirring to keep from scorching.
~When roux has reached desired thickness, pour into the crock pot.
~Place all remaining ingredients in crock pot and stir.
~Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
~Stir well before serving.
~Enjoy with fresh bread and butter.
Blessings from my cozy home to yours,