Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

This is a crock pot recipe I thought up in my head one day, but based on a recipe my mother-in-law gave me. Most beef Stroganoff recipes call for the incorporation of sour cream....which is fine when you're cooking for a shorter time on a stove top. However, since this was to be cooking all day, using sour cream might not have worked too well, since there was a risk it might break down & separate. So instead, I chose to substitute cream cheese into that role.  I loooove crock pot recipes - they can be prepped the night before and plugged in the next morning on your way out the door to go to work. Then when you come home after a long day, voilá! The house smells amazing, and you have a home-cooked meal waiting for you without having to do hardly a thing.  Win-win!  :)

A few things to note about this recipe -

  1. I have a 5-qt crock pot, so I can't really make small recipes if they're going to be cooking in the slow cooker all day, or else I risk damaging my appliance.  So this is a big recipe.  But...the good news is, you can cut this recipe in half, especially if you have a smaller pot, like 4 quarts.
  2. If you don't like mushrooms, you can skip them, but you'll need to compensate for the liquid, since the mushrooms add a good portion of the moisture in this recipe.  I suggest adding 2 more cups of beef broth to make up for it.
  3. You can find beef stew meat in nearly any meat case in any grocery store.  They're usually the scraps of meat left over from other, higher-quality cuts.  If trimmed properly, and then cooked in this manner (read: all day), you won't be able to tell the difference between the scraps and the prime rib.  ;)
  4. The layer order you see in the pictures is different than what I recommend below.  This is because when I made this dish, I mistakenly put the noodles on top.  Then as the day wore on and the mushrooms released their liquid and cooked down, the noodles remained on top, floating above it all. So they stayed rather stiff and never really got cooked until my husband was kind enough to stir the whole pot for me.  He moved the noodles down to the bottom and gave it a chance to soak up the juices.  So that's why I recommend putting them at or near the bottom of the pot, rather than how I show it. (Do as I say, not as I do...)  ;)
  5. I should have broken up the cream cheese into smaller chunks when I made this recipe, as it would have melted and incorporated better into the sauce.  So in my pictures you will see a solid block of cream cheese.  Don't do that...cut it up and spread throughout the pot.  You'll be glad later, when you have to stir the whole thing into itself.
  6. If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, make sure you use the Lea & Perrins brand of Worcestershire sauce, as it is labeled as definitely GF.  Then substitute the flat egg noddles with your choice of GF pasta.
  7. Using pre-cut veggies will help cut down on your prep time.  Take advantage of these items, unless you REALLY like cutting up your own vegetables.  ;)

2 lbs (approximately) Beef Stew meat
1 C diced onions, white or yellow
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 C (16 oz) sliced white mushrooms
52 oz (two 26-oz containers) beef stock
1 C water
16 oz (2 bricks) low fat cream cheese, cut into cubes
2 packages brown gravy mix
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (for GF, use Lea & Perrins brand)
2-3 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp coarse Kosher salt (or to taste)
1 bag flat egg noodles (GF noodles can be substituted)

Trim meat to get rid of any excessive fat.  (Don't cut all of it away; a small amount is necessary for flavor, but most of it can be thrown out.)  Cut meat so that they're as evenly-sized as possible; 1-in cubes or less.  If your crock pot is not the kind that can go from stove top to base, then brown beef in a deep fry pan.  To brown: heat pan on high until it is as hot as possible.  Add beef and season with salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  (If needed, add a tablespoon of canola oil to keep beef from sticking to the pan.)

Stir quickly and vigorously so that it sears and browns on the outside but does not cook all the way through.  When most of the pink is no longer visible, remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Add water to the bottom of the crock pot, then lay down noodles.  Place meat over the top of the noodles, then add garlic, onions, cubed cream cheese, gravy mix, and finally mushrooms.  Add Worcestershire sauce. Pour beef broth evenly over contents of entire pot.

Cover, then set temperature to high and let cook for 8-10 hours, stirring once after 5-6 hours.  When ready to serve, turn heat off and stir well, so that sauce is evenly incorporated.  Ladle onto plates and garnish with herbs, such as parsley.

Makes 10-12 servings


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