I’ve long been an advocate for cooking a meal to go along with your tabletop game night, for many reasons. If you serve up food that ties in with the setting or theme of your game, it can add an extra layer of immersion. Meals are a bonding social experience, much like gaming, so it reinforces the already good feelings you get from that. And if your group is trying to be a bit more health conscience, having a healthy, home-cooked meal can help you all cut down on snacking. And if, like me, you enjoy cooking, it’s just fun.
Because I work during the day, I often use my slow cooker to prepare meals for game night. One of my favourites for a basic fantasy-feel is slow-cooker beef stew, served on trenchers. What are trenchers? Once upon a time, trenchers were flatbread upon which food was served. Often this food was a stew or something else drippy or runny, which would soak into the trencher. Used trenchers would be given as alms to the poor, or just eaten the next day for breakfast. At some point trenchers stopped being bread and started being a round wooden disk with a raised lip, but its function remained the same: hold a bunch of food. I’m assuming they stopped giving them to the poor or eating them for breakfast at that point, but I’m not the boss of them.
Here’s the beef stew recipe:
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 3 potatoes, diced
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- Heat a frying pan to medium-high, and add the olive oil. Sear the beef stew meat until it has a nice colour on the outside, but don’t leave in the pan long enough to cook all the way through.
- Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the seared beef to the slow-cooker, and pour the flour mixture over that, stirring to combine.
- Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and mix to combine. If you have the time, let the slow-cooker run for 10-12 hours. If you don’t, 4-6 hours on the high setting will do the trick.
- Serves 6. Serve in bowls, or find some hearty flat-breads at your local bakery or grocery store and serve it on trenchers.
If you are celiac, ditch the flour. And you can make the dish vegetarian but retain some of the same flavour by leaving out the beef, changing the beef broth to vegetable stock, and adding 3 cups chopped mushrooms and 2 tablespoons soy sauce to the mix. It’s a recipe which lends itself to experimentation, so give your ideal stew a try. If you’ve got a favourite to share, why not slip it into the comments?