Fun fact: I went to culinary school back in 2010. True story! I actually graduated with a Baking and Pastry degree, hence why if you follow me on social media (Instagram), I often post tasty desserts, both in my feed and on my stories.
I genuinely have fun in the kitchen and enjoy trying new things, both savory and sweet.
This time of the year, one of my favorite things to make is stew. Specifically a hearty beef stew, packed with chunks of meat, veggies and a rich broth worth sopping up to the last bite. Served with a glass of red wine, this is heaven in a bowl to me.
Since I typically work long hours this time of year, the crockpot is my best weapon with getting the job done. I have yet to experiment with an instant pot, but the prep time is the exact same no matter which option you choose. One method just cooks it faster. But seeing as how I can set the crockpot before leaving for work and come home to dinner being ready – in addition to the house smelling INCREDIBLE – the crockpot has become my go-to.
The fun thing about savory recipes is that they are almost always adjustable. If you don’t care for one ingredient, you can often substitute or omit it, depending on what you are making. Pastry or dessert recipes are much more delicate about that rule.
Stew is a prime example of a recipe that you can have freedom with.
Substitute regular potatoes for sweet potatoes or fingerlings.
Omit the meat for a vegetarian option.
Some people hate celery so they leave it out.
(Which, side-note, celery is one of the holy trinity ingredients for stocks and soups, also known as a Mirepoix. The aromatic flavor base renowned in kitchens worldwide is made up of celery, onion and carrot. All three is key. So Pro Tip: Leave it in!)
Add a splash of red wine for a deeper, richer flavored broth.
Stew is seriously one of the most versatile and easy recipes out there. If you want to get stupid easy, you can literally throw everything into the crockpot, cover with liquid, set it and forget it.
Or you can get a little more fancy with it, like I tend to, by browning the meat first, followed by deglazing the pan for extra flavor.
The internet has made recipe sharing incredibly convenient. I turn to this library of knowledge quite often – there’s zero shame with doing that. Almost always, I will read up on the comments of a recipe to see what other people have done to modify the recipe, or what to look out for. This is good practice!
Case and point being with the Beef Stew recipe I make.
I found the original recipe right here:
From there, I read up on some of the comments. The first you will come across is one by a gal named Corinne. She discusses her tweaks to the original recipe, such as upping the amount of flour, adding red wine, deglazing the pan (so much yes!), adding a packet of seasoning, and so on.
So guess which version of the recipe I followed?
Ding! Ding! Ding!
The end results are DELICIOUS, to say the least.
Again you guys, there is ZERO shame with following a recipe. You don’t need to be some prodigy in the kitchen that somehow naturally knows precisely what ingredients will come together to reign heavenly trumpets down to your plate. That’s stupid.
Simply research a recipe with high reviews and a multitude of them. This means people are making the recipe and you can easily gauge the success rate of it. I do this all of the time!
Corinne also mentions using a packet of Beef Stew flavoring/seasoning. Some people consider this “cheating”. Now, to those people who think that way and would scoff at such a heinous crime, you may kiss my beautiful white ass. A seasoning packet is just a ridiculously convenient ingredient. It’s not cheating. Cheating is buying the soup from the store, taking it to your work potluck and proudly claiming it’s your grandmother’s homemade recipe.
Look, if you want to aspire to that prodigy chef status and buy EVERY SINGLE spice so that you can measure every last 1/4 teaspoon, be my guest. Or you can spend $0.95 and get a seasoning packet that you dump straight in.
I do it. Professional chefs do it. Make the job easier. There’s no shame in that.
Another pro tip, if you are legit scared of royally messing the recipe up, read some of the negative comments. Find out what went wrong for other people. Chances are, they didn’t actually follow the recipe.
This happens often with baking. A teaspoon is used instead of a tablespoon and they find themselves wondering why their cookies baked flat, accusing the recipes as being the reason for failure. Baking is science, and you can’t fuck with science in this case.
Fortunately beef stew is not science.
It’s a warm, hearty, soul-soothing marriage of tasty goodness.
And literally all you have to do is chuck everything into the pot and set it for several hours.
It doesn’t get much more simple than that.