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Merlot Beef Ragout

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This is what slow cookers do best -- transform a tough cut of beef into tender chunks infused with flavor. While this feeds 4 to 6, because there aren't vegetables besides the tomatoes, it easily fits into a 1 1/2-quart cooker. It can also be made in larger 3- or 4-quart cookers. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice to soak up the juices.

Hands on time: 20 minutes  Total time: 7 hours and 20 minutes  Serves: 4-6


    1 3/4 pounds lean, boneless beef stew meat, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

    1 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

    2 onions, chopped

    1 garlic clove, minced

    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

    1 cup dry red wine, such as merlot


Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add the beef and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Depending on the size of your skillet, you might need to do this in 2 or more batches to prevent crowding the meat.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onions and cook until softened and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to slow cooker.

Pour the tomatoes and wine into the skillet and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly while scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the meat is tender. During the last 45 minutes of cooking, check the consistency. If the juices are too thin, increase the heat to high and leave the cover off, letting some moisture evaporate.

-- Adapted from "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann (Harvard Common Press, $16.95 paperback)


Per serving (based on 6): 329 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 35 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 83 milligrams cholesterol, 578 milligrams sodium.

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