How I have missed thee. I had a nice long vacation. I ate gourmet Goat’s cheese. My parents, G-d bless them, were generous, babysat, and loved my baby until he almost exploded. AJ looked around once we arrived home in Israel and I swear he was thinking, “But where’s Grandma and Grandpa?” I was gone for three weeks- quite a long time for my husband who stayed behind to work, but never enough time with my family. So far, I have conveniently avoided the thoughts on where we will live long term. It is just too painful to imagine one family on one side of the ocean, and the other family living, celebrating milestones on the other side. Maybe I’m just being sentimental because this was a really great trip for me. Or maybe I’m jet lagged and it’s 4:30 am and I’m holed up in our bomb shelter (really just my office) with my bubbly baby and over the last three weeks I forgot what it was like to live without central heating. (If anyone has any suggestions as to how to cozy up my apartment which feels like a walk-in freezer, and doesn’t involve space heaters, please share!) Either way, it’s back to real life and another countdown till the next trip back home.
I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking while staying at my parents house, but I knew that I wanted to share a traditional McClusky recipe with you. A few weeks ago I made my Mom’s Beef Stew to have for lunch on Shabbat and remembered what a dream come true a Slow Cooker can be. I also discovered that there is a real, true, tasty, vegan alternative to the secret ingredient that tops all secret ingredients: Cream of Mushroom soup. I know, STOP THE PRESSES, but I wouldn’t lie to you. Some of you may be scratching your heads, but at least one of you know where I’m coming from. Growing up my Mom used to make Cream of Mushroom Chicken that was to die for. The recipe? Pour soup over chicken. Bake. One little can of this creamy concoction can shift many recipes from good to great. I dream of casseroles, of rice. Alas, I made it my mission in life to find a dairy-free solution. The key? Good tasting margarine. I know. What?! But there are some out there, mainly Earth Balance. I have yet to find this in Israel, but if someone is searching for the perfect imported product for Anglo Israelis, this is it. And when you get around to it, I’ll take a case. I could drink this stuff.
I cooked this stew in a slow cooker on low for almost 20 hours, but the original recipe states that it can be made in an oven set to 325 F for 3 hours. I would bet that you could also get away with a dutch oven over low heat on the stove for a few hours if the idea of leaving your oven on for that long frightens you. However, it is Winter in at least half of the world, and I’m considering sitting in front of my oven right now. Just saying. Essentially, this is quite the adaptable Stew. On the weathered recipe card from my Mom’s collection under ingredients it lists “vegetables and stuff.” My favorite way to eat this is with “buttered” crusty bread, dipped until soggy.
Barb’s Beef Stew
1 large 28 oz (794 gram) can of diced tomatoes
1 pack stew meat (You can also buy a small brisket or chuck and have the butcher cut into one or two-inch squares)
1-2 14 oz cans of beef broth (My Mom uses 1, I use 2, use 1 for a thicker stew)
Assorted vegetables (I used a large bunch of green beans, cut into small pieces, sliced carrots and mushrooms. My Mom also suggests corn, peas, or any other frozen vegetables you have on hand)
1/4 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/4 tsp Summer savory (optional)
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Salt
For the Roux:
4 tbsp Parve, dairy free margarine (Again, I suggest Earth Balance or Smart Balance. Note: Not all Smart Balance products are Parve, dairy-free or Vegan. Check the label!)
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small onion, minced
4 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cups vegan milk (I use Almond milk, but Soy is creamier. Make sure to get the unsweetened versions)
If using a slow cooker, turn it to high, replace the lid and allow to heat up for 20 minutes or so. If cooking in the oven or on the stove top, preheat an oven safe pot or dutch oven over low heat. Melt the margarine. Add diced mushrooms and onion and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vegan milk, stirring, and cook until the mixture is thickened. In a slow cooker, this doesn’t really thicken up, but not to worry, it will thicken while the stew simmers. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine. Cover and heat on low in a slow cooker for 8-20 hours, or in a preheated 325 F oven for 3 hours. Serve warm with crusty bread.