By Pam Anderson
[A post that rings especially true to me – I gave my slow-cooker to my father-in-law, and while I do have a pressure cooker, it gets pulled out about once a year. – mb]
I like pressure cookers and slow cookers just fine, but I’ve never developed a cooking style that included them. Unlike my coffee maker, they weren’t beloved enough to warrant precious counter space. And since they’re bulky, I couldn’t justify the coveted kitchen cabinet space, home to my much more frequently used pots and pans, food processor, blender, toaster and mixers.
And although I’d occasionally go through a phase and drag one or the other of them out for a brief time, my slow and pressure cookers usually end up on a garage shelf with the waffle iron, ice cream freezer, fondue pot, and espresso machine.
Unlike those other kitchen appliances, however, my pressure cooker and slow cooker didn’t make it on the moving van a few years back. Why? Because there’s no other way to make waffles, espresso, and ice cream without special equipment, but I can slow and pressure cook in my reliable old GE oven. It’s true I can’t pressure cook quite as fast or slow cook quite as slow as the specialty appliances, but what I lose in time, I make up for in quantity.
A couple of weeks ago, for example I made pulled pork for my holiday houseful. I could have barely fit a 3-pound pork shoulder in the average slow cooker, but I overnight slow-cooked a nine-pounder (and could have doubled that) in my 250-degree oven.
People swear by slow cookers and pressure cookers for stews. High and fast or slow and low—either technique works. But I offer both methods, which require only a pot and an oven. And unlike with a pressure- or slow-cooker, you can switch to a heavy-duty roasting pan and double the recipe.
Oven Slow-Cooked Classic Beef Stew
Serves 6 to 8
This stew should be made in a large soup kettle measuring at least 10 inches in diameter. If the kettle is any smaller, you may need to cook the meat in 3 batches.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and ground black pepper
2 medium-large onions, chopped (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup frozen peas (6 ounces), thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Place meat chunks in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 11/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonreactive soup kettle; add meat chunks to pan in 2 batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding an additional tablespoon of oil if necessary. Add onion to the now empty pan; sauté until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to sauté about 30 seconds longer. Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan. Add chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven; simmer until meat is just tender, about 3 hours. (Can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days.)
Before serving, bring 1 inch water to boil in a steamer pot. Place carrots in a steamer basket and lower into pot. Steam until just tender, about 6 minutes.
Add steamed carrots and peas to the fully cooked stew; cover and let stand to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, adjust seasonings, and serve.
Oven Pressure Cooked Classic Beef Stew
(This is actually my preferred method. Not only is the method faster, the stewing juices are thick and rich.)
Follow recipe for Oven Slow-Cooked Beef Stew with Green Peas and Carrots, adjusting oven rack to lower middle position and heating oven to 450 degrees.
Once browned beef cubes have been returned to soup kettle, place a sheet of heavy-duty foil over the pot. Using pot holders, press the foil down so that it touches the stew. Seal foil completely around the edges. Place lid snugly on pot. Turn burner on medium-high until you hear juices bubble. Set pot in oven and cook until beef chunks are tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Continue with recipe, adding steamed vegetables to the cooked stew.
(Pam Anderson is USA Weekend food columnist and author of 5 books, including How to Cook Without a Book. Her sixth book, Perfect One-Dish Dinners is out this September. She blogs weekly about food and life with daughters Maggy and Sharon at threemanycooks.com.)