With the air slowly starts to cool down and the leaves changing their colors, it is time to bring out my arsenal of stews and crockpot recipes. Who wouldn't want to come home with a hot dinner waiting right? Not to mention, the crazy chaos brought by hungry kids from school.
During my catering days so many years ago, one of the most requested dishes in the menu is this Vodka Braised Beef with Baby Bella Mushrooms. Sounds complicated? Not really. In fact, this complex flavored stew can also be prepared ahead of time and cooked with the help of that friendly slow cooker.
For those of you who are also gluten free and are worried about using vodka, there are now some brands that make vodka from potatoes, corn and even grapes. Check out this list for suggested brands. If you have concerns about serving food with alcoholic ingredients (even cooked) to your kids, feel free to substitute beef stock for both water and vodka. The end product will be slightly different in flavor but still a crowd pleaser.
Okay my foodie friends, my secret recipe is out. Feel free to share the love and the food. Just don't forget to let them know that you got it from me. :)
3 lbs. beef chunks (cut in 2 inch cubes)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/2 cup Vodka (check for the Gluten Free varieties)
3 1/2 cup water
3 pcs. bay leaf
2 pcs. star anise pods
1 cup sliced baby Bella mushrooms
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1. In a small bowl, combine the salt, garlic and black pepper to make a seasoning mix. Set aside 1 1/2 tsp.
2. Rub the beef chunks with the remaining seasoning mix.
3. In a heavy pot with olive oil, brown the beef in batches. You don't have to cook it all the way thru. Just make sure you have a nice sear.
4. Using the same oil, sauté the garlic and celery until fragrant. About 2 - 3 minutes.
5. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 minutes. Make sure to keep on stirring to avoid burning.
6. Pour the vodka and let the alcohol evaporate for about 6 minutes.
7. Return the seared beef in the pot and add the remaining seasoning mix, star anise, bay leaf and water. Bring to boil.
8. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Stir every 30 minutes to prevent the sauce from sticking into the pan.
9. When the meat is tender, add the mushrooms and parsley. Mix.
10. Turn off heat and let it stand for 7- 10 minutes before serving.
For the slow cooker version, after the alcohol has evaporated, transfer the sautéed garlic and celery in the crock pot. Then add the meat, water, star anise, bay. mushrooms and water. Cook on high for 6 hours. Stir in the parsley just before serving.