Post # 105 Slow Cooking – Not a Crock At All

March 20, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Sometime back in the ’70s, slow cooking through crock pots was suddenly the “in” thing.  There were books and magazines dedicated to telling busy moms how to throw a few ingredients into the slow cooker and go to work all day to return to the evening meal done and waiting.  My mom had a crock pot (which is a trade marked name which has become synonymous with the whole movement; it was made by Rival.) and we made stew.  A lot.  In the southwest desert, particularly during the summer, you were always looking for ways to cook that didn’t heat up the entire house, and the crock pot filled the bill.  And as long as you knew what you were doing, the food was tasty and nutritious.  People were so into this craze there were even recipes for making cake in the crock pot.  I never had any desire to try that, and never knew anyone who had actually done it.  One of the wedding gifts my wife and I received was a slow cooker (as they are now known) and I used it for all kinds of soups and stews and sauces.  In particular, I would use it for spaghetti sauce which I made so often that I had it down to a science.  One time, when my wife and I were staying with her sister, I wanted to have spaghetti the next day, so I started the sauce in the slow cooker the night before.  Sister in law woke up at around 11pm to come out to see what was happening.

“That smells delicious!  It’s permeating through the walls right into my bedroom!”  She had to have some on a piece of bread even though it was nowhere near ready.

Having a slow cooker is certainly a convenience in any kitchen, and it doesn’t break the cardinal rule of single-usage.  The slow cooker can be used for a ton of stuff.  I knew one person who would use it to thaw out a frozen dinner.  She’d fill it with water, double-wrap the frozen dinner in plastic, put it into a waterproof plastic bag, and leave it in the slow cooker on low all day.  When she got home from work, the dinner would be ready.

Slow cooking can be done in many ways.  The crock pot style uses moisture which is why it’s so good for making soups, etc.  The oven can be used in either a moist or dry situation to accomplish whatever slow cooking you’d like.  More on that in a minute.  The stove top can be used with a lidded pot and the burner at its lowest setting.  The primary difference in each method is convenience.  How much oversight is needed for any particular method?

As I said before, the slow cooker is one of the most convenient.  Put your ingredients in, turn it on, cover it, and go away for a few hours.  The oven is almost as convenient.  Put your ingredients in an oven-safe pot, put on a lid, turn the oven on, put the pot in, walk away.  Don’t leave the house with the oven on, but certainly watch TV or read this blog!  Slightly less convenient is the stove top, where you need to simmer in a liquid and stir frequently to avoid scorching.

I like slow cooking because it allows the cook to use inexpensive cuts, older vegetables, and still arrive at highly flavored, tender foods.  One of the drawbacks to slow cooking, particularly in a liquid is that meats don’t brown, they turn gray.  Not appetizing.  As one celebrity chef said recently, “Brown foods taste good.”  The solution is to brown the food, usually meat, before or after cooking.  Browning before cooking helps seal some of the flavor in.  Browning after is problematic due to the fork tenderness of the foods.  One chef I talked to resolved that problem with a crème brule torch.  Not something I’d want to try.  Also, with slow cooking, you want to be sure to add the ingredients so they cook properly.  If you add tomatoes and potatoes at the same time as the meat and cook for hours, you’ll have meat floating in a wonderfully thick red sauce, but no vegetables, except some skins.  Also, herbs and spices lose their potency after long cooking.  There are solutions to all the problems, however, and I’ll tell you about those in the next post.

My favorite way to slow cook is in the oven.  It’s a method called Slo-Lo.  I typically use it for a medium quality cut of roast beef, but it can be effective for nearly any meat, except seafood.  Here’s my favorite recipe.

Brown a four to six pound roast on all sides to seal in juices.  In a large roasting pan, place half inch slices of onion, potato, carrots, and celery.  Sprinkle veggies with kosher salt, and add as many whole cloves of garlic as you like.  Add half a cup of beef stock and half a cup of hearty red wine.  Heat the oven to 250, then turn down to 185.  (If your oven doesn’t have a setting that low, go to the lowest setting below 250 available.)  Place the roast on top of the vegetables and place roasting pan uncovered in oven.  Do not open the oven door at any time.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches about 125 to 130, about 4-5 hours.  Take pan out of the oven and wrap the meat in foil.  Working quickly, strain the liquid from the vegetables through a wire sieve into a bowl.  Mash the veggies to remove all juices.  Place half the veggies in a blender and liquefy.  Add to the juices and put in a sauce pan.  Add 1/4 cup of beef stock and 1/4 cup of red wine and mix.  Bring to a boil then reduce by about a third.  When the sauce is ready, unwrap the beef and slice to desire thickness.  Serve with mashed potatoes and sauce for gravy.

I do this about four times a year and it never fails to impress and to please!

Enjoy!

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Maybe my method is different… I’m thinking the roast time is shorter, and the vegetables aren’t mushy or flavorless. Instead, they’re browned & roasted & have that deep flavor from the meat. If the meat needs more time because it’s a cheaper cut, I add the vegetables later. And they aren’t under the roast, but beside it. So I guess that’s a different recipe. ;-p

  2. This looks good, but one of my favorite parts of roasting meat is roasting those veggies as well… I almost prefer them to the main course. Mashing them up seems sacrilegious.

    • Well, by the time everything is done, that’s really all they’re good for. They’ve imparted all their flavor and goodness to the pan juices.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: