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Steak smothered in mushroom onion gravy

Serves six to eight

Equipment needed: Medium to large (3-1/2- to 5-quart) slow cooker

One 1/2-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 to 3 pounds braising steak, such as round, blade or cross-rib steak
3 onions, thinly sliced on the vertical
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry sherry
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

In a bowl, combine dried mushrooms and hot water. Let stand for 30 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve, reserving liquid. Pat mushrooms dry with paper towel, and chop finely. Set liquid and mushrooms aside.

In a skillet, melt butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add steak and brown, in pieces if necessary, on both sides, four minutes. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan. Add onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to turn golden, seven minutes. Add garlic, thyme, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and reserved dried mushrooms and cook, stirring and scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan, for one minute. Stir in tomato paste. Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook, tossing, for one minute. Add sherry and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in reserved mushroom liquid and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, three minutes.

Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in cremini mushrooms. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours, until meat is very tender. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Variation: Steak smothered in creamy mushroom onion gravy: Stir in 1/4 cup whipping cream after recipe has finished cooking.

(From Judith Finlayson’s “Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes” (Robert Rose, 2009)

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