Just about everybody knows I like to cook - and that usually means slow cooking - fall off the bone, fat rendered out, lip smacking, finger licking good eats cooked in sufficient quantities that there are at least four servings for each person present. If you plan on eating dessert you'd better do it before the meal - just sharing past experience.
Recently, one of my special encouragers gave me a Wonderbag. These Wonderbags are very curious and amazing things. The literature that comes with it details a slow cooker that uses no fuel at all as it cooks. So, read on as I share with you the making of a batch of beef stew.
From the Wonderbag website, "The Wonderbag is a non-electric, heat-retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to a boil, to continue cooking after it has been removed from the fuel source." Sounds pretty interesting. I needed a large pot so I used my 7 quart Dutch oven - it is cast iron so I might have hedged my bet a bit on having enough heat to cook for an extended time.
A quick trip to the store and I was ready with a good looking piece of beef (3 pounds), carrots, onions, mushrooms, stock, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and some spices. You can get this recipe and many others from the Wonderbag website.
All the preparation happens in the Dutch oven on the stove. I cubed the beef and seared it. Then I carmelized the onions and garlic and started building the stew. All the ingredients went into the pot. Everything was brought to a boil and allowed to simmer for 15 minutes.
Then I moved the Dutch oven into the Wonderbag and measured the temperature of the stew at 210 degrees Fahrenheit. The lid went on the Dutch oven and the Wonderbag was capped and the drawsting pulled tight.
The Wonderbag sat undisturbed from 1245 to 1745 - that is five hours of slow cooking with no energy input. Just before I opened the bag I touched around its surface and note that the only place I could feel any temperature warmer than the room was right next to where the Dutch oven sat on the base. The sides had no indication of warm content inside.
After five hours the beef stew was at 168 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat was very tender, the carrots were tender enought to eat but not mushy, and the stew tasted great. The 168 F temperature was perfect for ladeling the stew into a bowl and serving.
This recipe makes 6 quarts of stew. I liked it a lot. I prefer more spice than in the published recipe. Of course one can always fix that at the table or in the next batch.
Speaking of next, the next recipe I'll try is rice pudding.
If you are looking for a way to cook that requires very little time and very little energy and is really, really safe - no chance of fire, no problem if the power fails - get a Wonderbag.