A recipe for slow-cooker Chinese 5-spice beef stew and making our way out of the darkest weeks of the winter into the middle of February.
Mid February? How did we end up in mid-February? I still have my Christmas wreaths up on the doors. And I have the electric candles in the window too.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this glaring seasonal oversight, since I happen to have this same realization every single year in the middle of February. I think I subconsciously leave the lights and wreaths up to cast a little extra brightness into the darkest weeks of the year. Yeah, that’s it.
No seriously, it is somewhere around the second week of February, at around the time of the girls 100th day of school, and Valentine’s day and Presidents day… that’s when I start to notice that it is staying light later in the evening. When the end is in sight for the blue bent light days. I promise, this week the lights at are coming down.
Where I grew up north of Philly, mid-February meant that the thaw was just around the corner. My pond-hockey and sledding obsessed dad always wanted as many days of skating, tobogganing, skiing and sledding as possible out of the winter season. So for the Price family, Presidents day weekend was when my dad would pack us up into the Volvo wagon and drive us to Lake Placid for our annual winter sports vacation.
We’d rent a sprawling house in the residential section of the village of Lake Placid. My parents’ buddies from Vermont and Pennsylvania would come to stay too, and it was a virtual bonanza of Nordic skiing, skating on the Olympic oval, downhill skiing at Ice Face, competing in (and actually winning) the North American Tobogganing Championship, adults and kids building luge tracks in the yard for orange plastic sleds, Mom leading the charge for huge communal meals of lasagna or hearty beef stew and adults drinking a lot of beer and telling bawdy stories late into the evening.
This tradition has fizzled in the last several years. I am not sure why. I think in part it has to do with the fact that my sister and I took the tradition over years ago, but now that we both live in Vermont, we have plenty of winter left here, and feel no need to travel for it. Our pond is frozen solid, there is plenty of snow, and plenty more where that came from. The thaw is a long way off.
The wreaths, they may stay for a while longer.
Cooks Notes for the Beef Stew:
Grass-fed beef has less marbling or intramuscular fat than corn fed beef, so it can dry out if cooked too long or too hot. It’s best to use the low setting if your crock-pot has two temps. That way it will simmer, not boil.
Searing the meat will develop rich caramel flavor. Make sure your skillet is hot and the meat is dry before searing. If meat was cryovaced and thawed, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Crock-pot (ie slow-cooker) recipe for beef stew, with carrots, potatoes and onions. This hearty stew has the addition of shiitake mushrooms and Chinese 5-spice powder. Top bowls with fresh mung bean sprouts, scallions and sesame seeds for garnish.
- 1 pound beef stew meat (1-inch chunks), preferably grass-fed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or avocado oil, divided
- 1 large onion, large dice
- 4-ounces sliced fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake or white
- 1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice
- ½ cup dry sherry or Shao Shing wine
- 1 32 ounce box chicken broth
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 stalks celery, cut into chunks
- 1 large russet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or pure dark maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- Toasted sesame seeds, chopped scallions, mung bean sprouts
- Pat meat dry with clean paper towels. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat in a single layer, and cook, undisturbed, until seared and brown on the bottom, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn beef pieces over with tongs and sear well on a second side, about 4 minutes. Stir beef and continue cooking until mostly browned, and the pan is starting to darken with fond, 2 to 4 minutes more. Scrape the beef into the slow cooker and return the skillet to the heat.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add onion, mushrooms and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often until the mushrooms and onions are browning, and starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 5-spice powder and stir to coat. Cook, stirring until fragrant. Add sherry (or shao shing) and stir up any browned bits from the skillet. Add broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Pour the mushroom mixture into the slow cooker.
- Add carrots, celery, potato, coconut sugar and crushed red pepper to the slow cooker, stir and cover. Plug in slow cooker and set to low 4 ½ hours.
- 30 minutes before timer goes off, stir ¼ cup cold water and arrowroot in a small dish. Stir arrowroot slurry into the stew, stirring constantly. Cover and allow to finish cooking the remaining 30 minutes.
- Serve stew in bowls with optional garnishes on top.
65 mg Cholesterol, 4 g Added Sugar