“Stress is like spice – in the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.” —Donald Tubesing
I’ve been learning an important lesson the past few months, stress is inevitable and it’s everywhere. Getting stuck in traffic on the way to work, Stressful. Getting a bad performance review at work, Stressful. Finding out your insurance is going up, Stressful. Losing that document you’ve been working on for two weeks, Stressful. Even little things like losing the remote can be stressful.
When I’m stressed I like to cook, which I’ve been told many times by my family is “weird”. I also know that when most people are stressed the last thing they want to do is follow a recipe and cook. So instead of giving you a recipe for delicious and comforting bread pudding, or homemade ice cream, or a skillet cookie, I’m going to give you the tools for a quick weeknight meal you won’t even have to think about.
The first thing you’ll need is a crock pot. What?! You don’t own a crock pot? Fine, find your nearest thrift store and go pick one up. I guarantee they have several on the shelves right now. All you need is one with a removable crock that has a proper fitting lid. You don’t need fancy settings, a locking lid, or one that links up to your iPhone. As long as it heats up you’re good.
Okay, you have your crock pot, now let’s get back to it. We’re going to call this “Whatever’s in the Kitchen Stew”. To quote The Pirates of the Caribbean, “these are more like guidelines”. Feel free to add or subtract whatever you want from this recipe. Remember it should be easy and incorporate whatever you already have on hand.
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon paprika, plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for coating
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound small white potatoes, halved
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, halved
- 3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
Toss the beef with the paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Coat in flour and shake off any excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook undisturbed until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, turning the beef as needed, until mostly browned, about 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the beef to the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker; add the potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and onions and stir to combine.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and stir until the oil begins to turn brick-red, about 1 minute. Add the flour and wine and whisk until thick (it’s OK if there are some lumps). Add the beef broth, thyme, caraway if using, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and bring to a simmer, whisking; continue simmering and whisking until the gravy is smooth and thick, about 4 minutes.
Pour the gravy into the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. The meat and vegetables should be tender.
Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Serve the stew in bowls with dollops of sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika.