Alex’s slow cooker beef and gravy was cooked for a total of nine hours. The beef was browned on the stove top then transferred to the slow cooker with sauteed aromatics. Bone broth was poured in and everything cooked together for eight hours. The following day, gravy was stirred in and the dish cooked for another half hour or so.
Alex cooks a lot these days—more often than I do, in fact. She goes to cooking school once a week. Every Sunday. Between classes, she practices by cooking just about anything she can lay her hands on. If what we have in the fridge and pantry aren’t enough, she makes grocery lists. Oh, how that excites her! She just loves making grocery lists. She and her father drive to the grocery and, when they get home, she cooks. Most are hits, some are misses and, all too often, we’re too excited to eat that we forget to post photos on Instagram. It’s after demolishing a dish when either she or I remembers belatedly that neither bothered to take photos with our phones.
What I don’t forget is to take photos with my dSLR. The day we had this slow cooker beef and gravy for lunch, the sky was overcast and we all knew that rain was imminent. In our hearts, we felt celebratory. We had been waiting for the rain to break the monotonously humid days. But, at the back of my mind, I was wishing that the clouds could hold off unloading the weight they were carrying until I could take photos in the garden.
I got my wish. Partly. Large raindrops started to fall as I laid down the bowl on the garden table. I was in such a hurry that I left the tripod inside the house. For a split second, I debated whether to make a dash for it or to start shooting without it. My fear that the delicious dish would be drenched won. I took two photos. One was blurry. The other showed large blots made by the raindrops on the fabric I had covered the tabletop with. I would have loved to take more and better photos but it was too risky. Never mind the blots. Careful cropping should take care of that. Or so I thought. The photo above is the cropped version and there is still one blot visible along with minuscule ones. The photo might not be perfect but the slow cooker beef and gravy is.
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms stewing beef (brisket, crest or short ribs), cut into two-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon capers drained
- 3 tablespoons red wine (Alex used port)
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 to 6 cups bone broth (you may substitute water IF using a beef cut with bones)
Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Place in a resealable bag. Add the flour. Seal. Toss to coat each piece of meat lightly.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Spread the beef cubes in a single layer and brown all sides. You may have to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker.
Pour off the oil from the pan (save to reuse another time) leaving only about two tablespoonfuls. Add the butter and heat until melted.
Saute the onions, garlic, tarragon, sage, cayenne and capers until the onion pieces are translucent. Pour in the wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck bits. Continue cooking until the mixture is almost dry.
Tip the contents of the pan over the beef in the slow cooker. Add the bay leaf. Pour in enough bone broth to cover the meat. Sprinkle in more salt and pepper. How much depends on how well seasoned the broth is. Turn the slow cooker on LOW and cook the meat for eight hours. The actual cooking time depends on the quality of the meat. So, use "eight hours" as a guide.
On the stovetop, make a roux for the gravy base. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the mushrooms. Cook for a minute. Scoop out and set aside.
In the remaining butter, dump the flour all at once, and stir until smooth. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for six to seven minutes to make a brown roux.
Take about a cup of broth from the slow cooker and pour slowly over the brown roux, stirring as you pour. Cook until the mixture has thickened.
Scrape the gravy into the slow cooker and stir well taking care not to break apart the tender beef cubes. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Turn the slow cooker to HIGH and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.
Serve your slow cooker beef and gravy with bread, rice or noodles while hot. Optionally, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.