When autumn sweeps in with her bright warm colors and crisp air, it’s time to pull out the comfort food! Food that begins as a taste of contentment, soon spreading through your body as it fills the belly with a soft glow that just makes you feel good. I don’t know about you, but I wait all year for that first bite, and one of my most cherished vessels for such a bite is in the form of beef stew.
Stew, by itself, is a basic recipe that can be mastered by everyone. It doesn’t take much in the way of knife skills usually, and cooking it can be a breeze.
That is unless you want to really make that stew more than just stew. I’m talking about flavor development, and that can be done even if you’re using a slow cooker as your prime cooking tool, as is done in this recipe.
To develop the flavor in this stew there is no caramelizing of vegetables. Instead, there is flouring and browning of beef and mushrooms to pull their savory and earthy flavors to the forefront, rather than sweetness from the root vegetables. The subtle sweetness comes with a bit of bitter when a beer is used to deglaze the pan that those beef and mushrooms were browned in, scraping all the crispy caramelized bits from the bottom and adding it to the stew. Oh, and that flour? It helps thicken the stew as it cooks low and slow for hours.
If that isn’t enough extra flavor, don’t worry, there’s more!
Wild rice isn’t typical in most stews, so adding it to this stew in lieu of potatoes, is a way to add a delicious texture as well as extra flavor from toasting the wild rice in a bit of butter before tossing it in with that beef, mushrooms, and chopped vegetables.
Is your stomach growling yet? Then let’s get started!
Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Wild Rice
- 1 ½ pounds beef roast
- 8 ounces button mushrooms
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon savory
- ½ teaspoon rosemary
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 8 ounces beer
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 5-6 fresh sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup wild rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt to taste
Lay the beef on a cutting board and cut it into 1 to 1½ inch cubes.
On a clean cutting board, cut the onion into small wedges. Peel and crush the garlic and roughly chop them. Cut the carrots and celery into ¼ inch thick slices. Set the vegetables aside. Cut the mushrooms into quarters but keep near the beef.
Pour the flour into a sealable bag along with the dried oregano, marjoram, thyme, savory, rosemary, and black pepper. Add the cubed beef to the bag and seal it. Shake the bag, covering the beef cubes in the flour and herbs.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the floured beef cubes, in a single layer, to the hot pan. Brown the beef cubes on each side until all sides are browned and transfer them to a bowl while cooking the rest of the beef.
Add the mushrooms to the bag with the flour and repeat with them what was done with the beef cubes. Transfer them to the hot pan after finishing all the beef, and cook them just like the beef.
Pour a small amount of beer into the pan with the mushrooms and scrape any crispy bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon and turn off the heat. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the meat along with the liquid and bits for the slow cooker.
Put the browned beef, mushrooms, and vegetables into the pot of a slow cooker and pour in the reserved pan liquid and the rest of the beer into the pot.
In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once it’s melted, add the wild rice to the pan and toast it until golden brown and nutty smelling. Add it to the slow cooker as well.
Pour water into the slow cooker until it covers the ingredients plus about 1 inch. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook 4-5 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.
Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve hot.
If you happen to have herbs de Provence in your pantry, use a tablespoon of that for the flour seasoning.
Not enough time to do the prep work before adding to the slow cooker? No problem! Follow the below steps 1-8 the night before then allow them to cool before putting them in the refrigerator in separate containers (vegetables in one, browned meat in another, mushrooms in another, rice in another). In the morning toss them all into the slow cooker, add herbs, water and the rest of the beer and turn it on.
STEP ONE – CUT BEEF
On a clean cutting board, lay out the beef and cut it into 1- 1 ½ inch cubes, going against the grain as you cut.
STEP TWO – CUT VEGETABLES AND MUSHROOMS
Peel the onions and garlic and trim the ends. On a clean cutting board, cut the onions into small wedges and roughly mince the garlic on the cutting board. Peel the carrots and trim the ends before cutting them into rounds. If the pieces are too big, cut those in half. Trim the ends of the celery and dice. Set the vegetables aside.
Cut the mushrooms into quarters or smaller. They should be about the same size as the beef cubes.
STEP THREE – MIX FLOUR AND DRIED HERBS
Using a sealable plastic bag, pour the flour and dried herbs and black pepper into it. Seal the bag and shake it well to mix the seasoning into the flour.
Open the bag and add all of the cut beef cubes to the bag. Seal the bag and shake well to coat the meat on all sides. Remove the meat from the bag, shaking off any excess flour back into the bag, and place it in a bowl.
STEP FOUR – BROWN THE MEAT
Heat half of the olive oil in a skillet or other pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, in a single layer, to the pan and let it brown, making certain to turn it so that all sides get browned. Transfer the cooked meat back to the bowl and set aside.
STEP FIVE – FLOUR AND BROWN THE MUSHROOMS
Put the mushrooms into the flour bag and seal it. Shake the bag well to cover the mushrooms with the flour and herbs. Put the mushrooms into the same pan as the meat, adding more olive oil if necessary, and brown them in the pan.
STEP SIX – DEGLAZE PAN
When the mushrooms have browned slightly, pour a bit of beer into the pan and scrape any crispy bits off the bottom with a spatula. The beer should thicken as it pulls the bits from the bottom of the pan because of the flour. Transfer the cooked mushrooms and thickened sauce to the bowl with the beef.
STEP SEVEN – TOAST RICE
Put the butter into a medium sized saucepan and melt it over medium-low heat. After the butter has melted, add the wild rice to the pan and stir to coat it in the butter. Continue to cook the rice, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick and burn. Once the rice has become lightly toasted, browned, and smells a bit “nutty”, turn off the heat.
STEP EIGHT – ADD EVERYTHING TO THE SLOW COOKER
Put the browned beef and mushrooms into the slow cooker. Add the prepared vegetables and the toasted rice. Next, add the fresh herbs; rosemary, oregano, sage. Lastly sprinkle in a pinch of salt and the bay leaves into the pot.
Pour in the rest of the beer and fill with water.
STEP NINE – COOK
Cover the slow cooker with the lid and turn it on high to cook 5-6 hours and on low to cook 8-9 hours.
Taste the stew before serving and add salt as needed.
STEP TEN – TASTE AND SERVE
Open the slow cooker, stir and taste the stew. Season with salt if needed and serve hot.
Serving up a bowl full of this stew after smelling it cooking all day lets you reap the rewards of a few extra steps. Steps that can be used in any stew all autumn and winter long no matter the protein used or if opting for a vegetarian version!