Decorated with a fruit-and-flower motif in a yellow border, the Crock-Pot on the yard sale table looked straight out of the 1970s, when this kitchen appliance first hit the market. I wondered if it would work, but the price was right at $4, so I took it home, plugged it in, and eventually made a batch of Hungarian beef stew.
According to the official Crock-Pot web site, this appliance started as a bean cooker but its uses expanded. Now people call it a slow cooker and the stainless steel sides make it look much sleeker. The newest models even connect with your smart phone so you can turn them on remotely.
A flea market yielded a 50-cent companion to my yard sale bargain: the Rival brand Crock-Pot Cooking book, published in 1975. “Cooks all day with the cook’s away” the blurb on the back cover promised. Since my summer job keeps me busy at odd hours, I liked that retro idea.
Though beef stew hardly seems like summer fare, I wanted something hearty for a pot luck, and the Crock-Pot doesn’t heat up the kitchen the way an oven would. Best of all, I put together my ingredients before I went to bed and woke up with a meal ready for later that day. A seasonal bonus: the red pepper and parsley came from local farms. I substituted beer for beef broth, which may seem weird, but the recipe only needed half a cup of liquid and I was in no mood to go out to the store at midnight to look for one missing ingredient. Red wine or even water would have worked fine, too. When I was cooking, I found a Classic Rock radio station blaring Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick and Aerosmith to enhance the 1970s theme. Fortunately, my cooking skills have improved since the first time I listened, when all I knew how to make was brownies from a mix or scrambled eggs.
Hungarian Beef Stew (1975)
2 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, pared and sliced
1 package (10 ounces) frozen lima beans, thawed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into strips (I used a red bell pepper)
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes (I used ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley)
1/2 cup beef broth (I used beer)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
- Place the beef, onion, potatoes, carrots, lima beans, garlic, pepper, and parsley in the Crock-Pot.
- In a bowl, mix the broth or beer, paprika, salt and tomatoes. Pour over the top of the beef and vegetables and stir to blend.
- Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours. Serve with rice, noodles, or quinoa.