After spending most of the last three weeks out of the kitchen, I’ve finally wandered back in to cook for my family! Beef Stew may sound like an odd choice when it’s hot outside, but for me, any season is crock pot season! This beef stew is hearty, relatively healthy, and won’t keep you in the kitchen all day long.
As a kid, we used to eat country ham that had been fried and basically glazed with Coke. It was SO yummy! The sugars caramelized and you had the sweet and savory thing going on (and your mouth felt like the Sahara for a week, but that’s a story for another day). So, having experienced cooking with soda before, I knew I could use my favorite soda, Diet Coke, in making Beef Stew. The soda helps tenderize the meat and adds a great flavor to the overall dish.
Friday was busy, and hot. I don’t know about you, but on hot and humid days, all I want to do is stay as far away from the stove as possible. Some people my husband find it odd that I want to use the crock pot when it’s so hot outside, as it’s typically thought of as a ‘comfort food’ cooker, but I see it as an alternative to having the oven on or standing over the stove for an hour. Plus, Fridays are crazy busy here and it is SO nice to get dinner going while the kids are still at school and not have to worry about it the rest of the day.
If You Can’t Take The Heat…
I took a 3 lb beef chuck roast and trimmed most of the fat off (not that there was much to begin with). I always try to get as much bang for my buck with beef by looking for the leanest cuts possible. Nothing is more frustrating that paying $15 for a roast and feeling like you throw away a quarter of it. Rather than tossing the whole roast into the crock pot, I cut it into fairly big pieces (about 2 inches square), seasoned it with salt and pepper and browned it in a little olive oil, not enough to cook it through, just to give it some color on the outside.
A Little Work Goes A Long Way
While the beef was browning, I mixed the tomatoes, water, Diet Coke, paprika, Italian seasoning and garlic. Mmmm… It was already looking yummy, though I don’t really do rare beef. Raw fish = yes. Rare beef = no. I browned the beef in two batches. I wanted it to brown and not be crowded in the pan. As it browned up, I moved it to the crockpot – where I’d mixed up the tomatoes, etc.
It would be a shame to lose all the flavor from stuck to the bottom of the pan, so I grabbed an open bottle of white wine and deglazed. Added bonus: It makes cleaning the pan so much easier! After adding the deglazing liquid, I layered in the veggies – firmest closest to the bottom – and put a lid on it for about 6 hours, on low heat.
Six hours later…delish! The veggies were just perfect – potatoes fork tender – and the beef was falling apart. I served it over a bed of Jasmine Rice, though it could easily be eaten alone, without the extra work.
- 1 3lb. beef chuck roast, excess fat trimmed and cut into 1½-inch cubes
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. small red potatoes
- 3 carrots, cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 1 head celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
- 1 12 oz. can Coca-Cola or Diet Coke
- 1½ cups water
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. paprika
- ¾ tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ cup white wine
- Sprinkle the beef with ½ tsp. salt and the pepper.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the beef and cook, in batches, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix the tomatoes, cola, water, garlic, paprika, oregano, and the remaining ¼ tsp. salt in your crock pot.
- Transfer the browned beef to the crock pot.
- Using white wine, deglaze the pan and add the renderings to the mixture in the crock pot.
- Layer in the potatoes, carrots, onion and celery to the crock pot and cook over low heat for 6-8 hours.