1 tablespoon rendered lard, bacon fat or neutral cooking oil
1 large head of fennel, cored and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, sliced horizontally through the stem to expose the cloves
3 cups beef stock (substitute with unseasoned beef, chicken or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound small red beets, peeled and cut in half
1 “sachet” (small muslin teabag or cheesecloth package containing 3-4 bay leaves, 1/4 teaspoon each black peppercorns, cloves, and coriander—optional)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
To Garnish: sour cream, fresh cracked black pepper and fine herbs (dill, parsley, and tarragon)
Season the stew meat with the salt and pepper and sear on all sides in a large cast-iron pan using the lard or cooking oil. If your slow cooker has a searing option, do this and the following steps entirely in your slow-cooker.
After the beef is seared, carefully remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Then add the fennel, onion and garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant.
Next add the stock and deglaze the pot, then mix in the tomato paste.
Mix this around until the tomato paste is incorporated and then add the beets, stew meat and spice sachet.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. You can also cook on high for about 4 hours, but in our testing this doesn’t allow the flavor to develop quite as much and didn’t seem to yield as “rich” of a stew, compared to when it is cooked very gently over 6-8 hours.
When the stew meat is tender it is ready to serve. Mix in the tablespoon of Kosher salt, being careful not to break up the meat and vegetables too much.
Serve in warm bowls topped with a nice dollop of sour cream, freshly cracked black pepper and the fine herbs.
This stew is delicious as is, but is also excellent served as leftovers simply ladled over rice or farro.