Thursday, March 8, 2012

Easy Meal: Oven Beef Stew

I think I've said before, that one of my "easy meal" cooking strategies is to cook when I cook.  Generally, it doesn't take very much longer to cook a double, triple, or quadruple recipe than to cook only enough for one meal.  When do large batch cooking I have dinner for that same day, and also one or two or three additional meals to put in the freezer, or to share.

My mother has a recipe for oven stew that she has made a gazillion years, and shared the recipe with me and my sisters when we were grown.  It has become one of my family's favorites over the years and I usually make double batches a couple of times a year, having stew one night and then another time topping the remainder with frozen puff pastry and having beef pot pie.

My mother doesn't really cook anymore, as she doesn't have the stamina for the cooking prep and process,  and she had been expressing a desire for "her" stew, so I offered to make up a batch for her.  I used 6 pounds of stew beef from Costco and made two pots' worth -- enough for her and my Dad for several meals, as well as enough for my family for a night of stew, a night of beef pot pie, and several single lunches and dinners that could be reheated according to a person's individual schedule.

note ever present tea cup and electric kettle, handy for tea refills
The recipe is so simple -- because there is no need to brown the meat!  Everything gets dumped into a big dutch oven or stock pot together, and placed in a 275 degree oven where it cooks unattended for 5 hours. When you take it out, perfect stew -- perfectly thickened gravy/broth, perfectly done carrots and potatoes, perfectly done fork tender beef that looks the same as if it had been browned!  This could probably be done in a crockpot, but a 5 hour cook in the oven usually works better for me as I do not like dealing with a bunch of dinner food prep first thing in the morning!  And usually I have forgotten to thaw the meat (or it never thawed overnight in the fridge) -- so getting things into the pot between noon and one o'clock just works much better.  And it can hold in the oven for a long time, so it is good for those nights when husband isn't coming home until 7 and a daughter won't be home until 9, etc.

dump all the veggies in the pot

add the meat and the rest of the ingredients and mix it up as best one can

one pot out of the oven
the other pot after it's done cooking
Oven Beef Stew (for this big batch session I doubled all of this and used two pots)

2 or 3 lbs stew meat
1 or 2 onions, cut up
2 or 3 celery stalks, cut up
3 or 4 carrots, cut up
4 or 5 potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup or tomato soup (or both)/can use home-made cream of- soup of course
a half cup or cup of water (depends on if you use 1 or 2 cans of the soup).

Mix it all together in a big dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with a lid, cover and cook at 275 degrees for 5 hours.  Give it a good stir towards the end of the cooking time.

The recipe is good just as it is, but sometimes I add mushrooms, some bay leaf, some thyme -- just whatever I feel like.  And you can vary the amounts of veggies and the amount of meat to whatever suits you.  No matter what you do, it turns out good.

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Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

That was sweet of you to make her beef stew. It looks delicious!

Heidi said...

That loos AMAZING! Thank you for sharing. I like your strategy too. Cook once, eat several times. Brilliant!