Category Archives: Beef

Daring Cooks: Sri Lankan Beef Curry and Carrots with Tropical Flavors

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

I won’t go too much into Appam, as I didn’t make it. Right now, I am not eating grains or yeast, so I figured making a yeasted rice flatbread wasn’t in the cards. However, if you want to read about how to make these (and they look like the perfect accompaniment to a saucy curry!), check them out over at Mary Mary Culinary.

I did, however, jump right on some Sri Lankan curry! I love curries made with coconut milk. Spices + coconut milk = comfort food. (I’ve already mentioned this in my previous post about a Thai-inspired curry, but it’s really true!) This curry was different than most I’ve made; it used fresh curry leaves and tamarind pulp. Lucky for me, there is an Indian grocery not far from our house, and I was able to pick up the necessary ingredients.

As this curry simmered on the stove, the intoxicating aroma of spices filled the house. I could hardly wait until it was ready. I served it with spaghetti squash for me, brown rice for the hubby, and some amazing carrots with lime, peppers, shallots, and cilantro that was bright, fresh, and lightened up the heavier curry. It was a lovely meal. Next time, I think I might opt for a lower temperature when cooking the meat, and perhaps swap out the beef for a lamb or goat. The London Broil I used was a bit too lean, and ended up a tad dry for the dish. However, the flavors were sensuous and won me over.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry, adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves

1 lb boneless beef (I used London Broil)

1 T coconut oil

10 fresh or frozen curry leaves

1 green cayenne chili, finely chopped

generous 1 c  finely chopped onion

1 t turmeric

1 t salt

½ c coconut milk

1 T tamarind pulp (I had a jarred tamarind pulp with no seeds)

3 c water

1 T arrowroot powder

Dry Spice Mixture:

1 T coriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

one 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick

seeds from 2 pods of green cardamom

1. Cut the beef into ½ inch cubes. Set aside.

2. In a small heavy skillet, roast the dry spice mixture over medium to medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously, until it smells amazing!

3. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind/pound to a powder. Set aside.

4. In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, green chile, onion and turmeric and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the meat and salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so all surfaces of the meat get browned.

5. Add the reserved spice mixture and the coconut milk and stir to coat the meat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6.  Add the tamarind pulp to the 2 cups of water. Whisk in the arrowroot powder.

7. Add the tamarind/water mixture to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered at a strong simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

Carrots with Tropical Flavors, adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves

1 lb carrots, about 5 medium, peeled

1 T coconut oil

about 8 fresh curry leaves

2 T minced seeded green cayenne chiles

3 T minced shallots

2 t rice vinegar (I used lime juice)

1 t salt

¼ t honey

½ c coconut milk

¼ c water

coarse salt, optional

cilantro (coriander) leaves to garnish

1. Julienne or coarsely grate the carrots. Set aside.

2. Place a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then add half of the curry leaves, the chiles and the shallots. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring.

3. Add the carrots, stir, and add the vinegar/lime juice, salt, honey and mix well. Increase the heat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until they give off a bit of liquid.

4. Add the water and half of the coconut milk and bring to a fast boil. Stir, cover tightly and cook until just tender, 5 minutes or so, depending on size. Check to ensure the liquid has not boiled away and add a little more water if it is almost dry.

5. Add the remaining coconut milk and curry leaves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired, and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

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Filed under Beef, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Swedish Meatballs (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

This recipe helps to dispel that myth that certain comfort foods are gone forever when one gives up gluten and dairy. Remember swedish meatballs? That creamy, silky sauce, coating delicious meatballs and a way-too-large plate of wide noodles? I do, although before I made this recipe, I hadn’t tasted swedish meatballs in several years – well before I went gluten-free. Even at their worst, (a.k.a. the “before I knew how to cook” swedish meatballs – processed powder in an envelope that you mixed together with the meat and some milk to make sauce) swedish meatballs still hold some nostalgia for me. My husband also loves the dish. So when I saw that Kelly over at The Spunky Coconut used cashews and lemon in place of sour cream in a dish (chicken paprika), immediately light bulbs went off. I knew I could make swedish meatballs. And so I made it happen the following night.

I soaked cashews before I left for work, and came home to start the sauce. I did add a non-traditional ingredient in the sauce – mushrooms – because I thought it would enhance the flavor. I had a leftover grilled portobello in the fridge, so why not? Since I pureed the mushrooms in the sauce, no one was any the wiser. It’s an optional addition, but personally, I loved the boost of flavor.

Once I had the sauce pureed and tweaked so that it tasted right, I worked on the meatballs. In the spirit of simplicity, I opted to bake them rather than cook them on the stovetop in batches. (The recipe already requires several steps – no need to complicate it further!) This allowed me time to make the pasta and warm the sauce, and then everything was ready to go. What I wasn’t prepared for was how good the result would be.

The sauce was excellent. Creamy, satisfying, and full of flavor. I had to double-check with my husband for authenticity. (Since it’s been so long since I’ve eaten certain gluten and/or dairy-filled dishes, my brain tends to somewhat forget what the original tasted like.) He said the sauce was lighter than the usual sour cream version, but that this wasn’t a bad thing. (I promise you, it’s still plenty creamy.) We both fell in love with it a little bit more with each bite.

This was one of those dishes where you wouldn’t find someone saying “This is pretty good for gluten/dairy-free” or “It’s different. Good, but different.” (I know we’ve all heard those statements once or twice before!) All our tastebuds knew was this was good eating.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Swedish Meatballs

For the cashew “sour cream”:

½ c cashews

Juice from 1 lemon

1 portobello mushroom, cooked and roughly chopped

2 t nutritional yeast flakes

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground lamb

1/3 c almond flour

1 egg

1 T flaxseed meal

1 t allspice

1/8 t cardamom

1 T onion powder

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

For the rest:

2 T ghee (or grapeseed oil – ghee is casein-free, but if you strictly avoid dairy, another oil will be a fine substitute)

2 T arrowroot powder

2 c beef stock

1 c vegetable stock

1 T onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 t ground nutmeg

¼ c chopped fresh parsley

Soak cashews in enough water to cover overnight or around 8 hours. Drain and place in a blender. Add lemon juice and start blender to puree cashews. Gradually add about ¼ cup additional water and continue to blend until consistency is about that of thick sour cream. (Stop to scrape down sides of blender as necessary.) Add mushroom and nutritional yeast flakes and blend again until smooth. Set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine ground beef, lamb, almond flour, egg, flaxseed, allspice, cardamom, onion powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until well-combined. If desired, check seasoning by making a tiny meatball and cooking on a skillet – taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Use a tablespoon to scoop out meat and form into meatballs with your hands. Place on baking sheet. You should get around 50 meatballs.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add arrowroot powder and whisk until combined. Add beef stock and vegetable stock and continue to whisk until boiling. Scrape the cashew cream from the blender into your skillet and whisk in. Turn heat to medium-low and heat until warmed through. Add onion powder and salt and pepper to taste. When meatballs are finished, add to sauce and stir to coat. If sauce is too thick, add additional stock and stir in as needed.

Once everything is thoroughly heated, sprinkle nutmeg over. Serve on top of gluten-free noodles and garnish with parsley.

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Filed under Beef, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta

Beef Jerky and a Valentine’s Day Roundup

Another dehydrator adventure! As promised, I’m sharing my beef jerky recipe with you. I’ve made 4 batches since the dehydrator arrived, and I’m betting I’m due to make another. You see, my husband isn’t really a “sweets” guy. All of the chocolates and candies in the world don’t faze him. (Except maybe these chocolates!) To show my love and appreciation for him through food, I make enchiladas, roast chicken, or chili. Although judging by its popularity, I think that this beef jerky very well has been added to this list of favorites.

This jerky is easy to make and while I haven’t measured the nutritional value, I’m sure it’s lower in sodium and healthier than the packaged stuff. My husband and I also think it tastes better – it’s slightly spicy, and the flavor is fuller. Of course, it’s also gluten-free. It’s perfect as an on-the-go snack when you’re not sure about your next meal, or when you don’t have much time to eat. It’s also wonderful to share, which is the reason why we’ve gone through so much!

Gluten-Free Beef Jerky

2 lbs lean beef (I like using London Broil the best)

1/4 c low-sodium gluten-free tamari (soy sauce)

1 T chipotle Tabasco sauce (alternatively, you can chop 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus add about 1 t of the sauce)

3 cloves garlic, minced finely

2 t onion powder

1 t black pepper

Place beef in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will allow it to “firm up” so that you can slice it more easily. Once it is firm, slice your beef across the grain thinly (about 1/8 inch thick or so).

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add the beef slices and seal the bag, and toss around to ensure all of the slices are well-coated. Refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours or so.

Remove from bag and lay strips out on dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 150 degrees for 8 hours or until the meat is dried enough to be just slightly pliable. You want it to bend a bit, but you don’t want it to be floppy in the slightest. (If you don’t have a dehydrator, setting your oven to the lowest setting and placing the beef strips on a metal rack over a baking sheet works pretty well too – you’ll just have to flip the strips halfway through.)

Is your sweetie in need of some more traditional Valentine’s treats? Don’t despair – I happened to check out a few things around the blogosphere, and came up with some decadent delights, just for you!

How about Chocolate Raspberry Bon-bons? I’ve made these before and they were GREAT. http://www.elanaspantry.com/chocolate-raspberry-bonbons/

Or some cake pops: http://www.elanaspantry.com/valentines-day-cake-pops/

Karina at Gluten-Free Goddess is sharing some chocolate love: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2010/02/gluten-free-chocolate-love.html

How about an extra-moist chocolate cake? http://realsustenance.com/extra-moist-gluten-free-double-chocolate-chip-cake/

Chocolate raspberry truffle balls? http://www.dailybitesblog.com/2011/02/08/chocolate-raspberry-truffle-balls/

I have even more truffle ball recipes here: http://tastyeatsathome.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/more-nut-truffles-pecan-pie-and-pistachio-sesame/

Amy has a lovely fresh fruit pastry tart recipe that looks amazing: http://www.simplysugarandglutenfree.com/fresh-fruit-tart-with-pastry-cream-happy-mothers-day/

It might be chilly outside, but in my mind, ice cream is good any time of year! How about sugar, dairy, and gluten-free ice cream? http://www.dietdessertndogs.com/2011/02/03/sos-stevia-dairy-free-sugar-free-coconut-ice-cream-no-ice-cream-maker-required/

More ice cream, this time chocolate pomergranate! http://glutenfreeeasily.com/chocolate-pomerdoodle/

Or one of my favorites, a vegan cheesecake: http://tastyeatsathome.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/vegan-and-gluten-free-cheesecake-with-blueberry-compote/

Seal in an airtight container and enjoy!

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Filed under Appetizers, Beef, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

Kids in the Kitchen: “Texas Red” Chili

I love chili. As I should – I’m a Texan. It’s practically mandatory to be passionate about chili. While I’m not as strict on what “is” and “is not” a chili as some (as evidenced by my turkey chili recipe, a chili that includes both beef and beans, and the vegetarian bean and pumpkin chili that made it into the Foodista Best of Foodblogs cookbook), I do truly appreciate what most consider a “real” chili around these parts; commonly known as “Texas Red.”

“Texas Red” has no beans. It has no tomatoes. It is most commonly made with beef, and it’s spicy, but in a good chili, the dried chiles add more than just heat – they add such a depth of flavor that nothing compares. For this reason, I try to stock up on a large variety of dried chiles. Some are sweet, some are smoky, and some are indeed hot enough to burn your tongue right off, if you eat too much. But blend them just right, and you have spicy, delicious Texas love in a bowl.

Brittany’s eyes shined when I mentioned chili, as it was her time to cook. (A girl after my own heart!) Originally, we were going to have some guests over this past weekend, and chili was on the menu. But when our guests cancelled, Brittany insisted we still make plans to cook chili. She loves it. So in spite of the bit of work, the spicy fingers, and the long wait, she happily prepared chili with me.

Spicy fingers? Why, yes. Of course, if I planned ahead, I’d have plastic gloves (shame on me!), but we seeded and toasted those dried chiles, and in spite of washing, a bit of the heat remained on our hands. But we didn’t mind, because the aroma of the chili bubbling away filled the house all afternoon. We left (leaving the boys to make sure our chili didn’t burn on the stove) with the chili at a low temperature, and took Brittany to her drill team performance at a middle school football game. As we returned to the house, and the last rays of sun were leaving the sky, we were welcomed again to that enticing aroma. We baked a bit of cornbread as fast as we could, and sat down to eat.

And eat we did! I think we were more than stuffed (it’s hard to put down your spoon!) when we finished. Fall had officially arrived in our home, because there was chili.

Gluten-Free Texas Red

note: If you can’t find the varieties of chiles shown here, don’t fret. Any combination of chiles will work, but mind the heat – some chiles are hotter than others!

8 dried anchos

5 dried guajillos

4 New Mexico chile peppers

2 dried chipotles

2 T beef tallow, lard, or bacon grease

5 lbs chuck roast, cubed into ¼ inch dice

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 c brewed coffee

1 12 oz bottle GF beer (or beef broth)

2 c water

½ t cinnamon

½ t ground cloves

½ t ground allspice

1 t ground coriander

½ t cayenne

2 T cumin

3 chipotles in adobo

1/3 tablet Mexican chocolate (such as Abuelita)

Salt to taste

Chopped onion, cilantro, and cheese (or Daiya for dairy-free) for garnish

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Heat a dry cast iron skillet to medium heat and toast the chiles until fragrant, about 1 minute. Cover with water and bring to a boil briefly. Reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer while you work on the rest of the chili.

In a large stockpot, heat beef tallow, lard, or bacon grease over medium high heat. Add beef (you might have to do this in batches) and brown, stirring occasionally. Remove and repeat with other batches. Remove and set aside. Add onions and garlic to the stockpot and sauté for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Add back the beef, and add the coffee, beer, water, and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

By now, your chiles should have softened. Drain the chiles, and add them to a blender along with 1-2 cups of water. Add the chipotle chiles. Puree in the blender until smooth. Add the chile puree and the Mexican chocolate to the stockpot and stir in.

Allow chili to simmer for 4-5 hours, adding salt, checking seasoning and adjusting as needed. Add more water if it becomes too thick. When ready to serve, check seasoning once more, and serve with desired garnishes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Filed under Beef, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Soups

2010 World Cup South Africa – Bobotie

This Friday, June 11, 2010, marks the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, held in South Africa. Soccer is the most widely played and enjoyed sport around the world, and it’s certainly the most popular sport in our household. My husband has played nearly his entire life, growing up in city leagues, playing for school, and enjoying adult amateur soccer, both indoors and out. He introduced me to indoor soccer – I started playing about 9 years ago (my previous experience was only a single season as a kindergartner – many years ago!), and while I’m not likely to be called up to the WPS anytime soon, it’s a great way to stay in shape, challenge myself, enjoy time with friends, and blow off steam. At home, we subscribe to a lot of specialty cable TV stations, just so my husband can watch as many of his beloved Chelsea games as he can. Of course, when we tune in this Saturday to watch the United States play England, we’ll be cheering our Team USA the whole way.

In anticipation of the upcoming games, I realized I knew next to nothing about South African cuisine. So I worked to educate myself. Turns out, South African cuisine is a “rainbow of cuisines” (as described by Wikipedia), as it is comprised of a variety of sources and cultures, including the cuisines of the indigenous people of South Africa, such as the Khoisan and Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho-speaking people, Indian and British immigrants and their cuisines, the cuisines of the Cape Malay people, and cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique. This makes for a wide variety of dishes and tastes. I was unsure of where to start, so I found one of the most popular dishes in South Africa – bobotie.

Bobotie is a meat dish consisting of ground/minced beef or lamb topped with an egg “custard”. The spices remind me of Indian and Malaysian cuisine, with the use of curry and turmeric, but the inclusion of nuts and fruit reminds me of other African dishes. While it takes a bit of time to make, the dish is relatively straightforward. I sifted through recipes, and decided upon a Martha Stewart recipe that looked tasty. I served it with a cinnamon basmati rice, also a variation on her recipe, which was full of flavor and enticing aromas. It was a tasty meal, and a perfect introduction into South African cuisine. I certainly plan to make another dish or two soon – does anyone have recommendations?

If you wish to browse other South African recipes, check out Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – South Africa Roundup over at What’s For Lunch, Honey? Those dishes all look inviting!

Gluten-Free Bobotie, adapted from Martha Stewart

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped finely

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 T minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 t ground turmeric

1 1/2 T Madras curry powder

2 lbs ground beef or lamb (I used lean ground bison)

1/2 c (1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

4 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread)

1 3/4 c whole milk

2 T mango chutney (or apricot preserves)

2 T fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 t finely grated lemon zest

4 dry bay leaves

Cilantro and mango chutney as accompaniments (Martha also suggests lemon or lime wedges and unsweetened coconut)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions, apple, and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add turmeric and curry powder and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in almonds and cook for 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand until the milk is absorbed. Add the bread mixture to the ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in mango chutney and lemon juice, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding salt and pepper.

Spoon ground meat mixture into a 6 to 8-cup shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and remaining milk in a medium bowl. Pour over ground meat mixture. Place bay leaves in dish, pressing into filling just a bit. Bake until set around edges and center is no longer runny, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompaniments and cinnamon basmati rice.

Serves 6.

Cinnamon Basmati Rice, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T unsalted butter

1 c raw basmati rice, rinsed

1 whole bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 crushed green cardamom pod

2/3 c raisins

2 c water

salt and pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until each grain is shiny and coated with butter mixture. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and raisins to saucepan. Add water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

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Filed under Beef, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Lamb, Main Dishes, Rice

Shaking Beef

When my husband casually walked into the kitchen the other day, asking “What’s for dinner?”, he had such a puzzled look when I replied “Shaking Beef.” I started to explain myself, and then upon seeing him quickly lose interest, yet not gain any understanding, I stopped myself short and said “It’s a beef stir-fry.” Sometimes I need to remember that fancy names for dishes get me nowhere at home.

But in order to satisfy your curiosity, I’ll share with you. This dish is Vietnamese in origin, and gets its name not from some miraculous trembling act it does on the plate, but rather from the shaking motion you use when stir-frying the beef and onions. This particular recipe is based very closely on a recipe from Charles Phan at Slanted Door restaurant, one of the many places I MUST visit whenever I might get to San Francisco. Until then, following his recipe at home will be the closest we’ll get. Good thing it’s relatively straightforward. It was also very easy to convert to gluten-free, too – all I needed was to ensure my soy sauce and fish sauce were gluten-free. (I discovered early in my gluten-free days that Three Crabs brand is not gluten-free. Now I stick with those brands that have short ingredient lists – usually no more than fish, sugar, and salt.) The soy sauce I use is San-J Low Sodium Tamari.

So now that you know about Shaking Beef, and how easy it is, go forth and impress (or confuse) others with your dish!

Shaking Beef, adapted from Charles Phan

1 1/2 lbs beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

5 garlic cloves, chopped

2 T agave nectar

2 t kosher salt

1 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

5 T canola oil

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

1/4 c rice wine or white wine

3 T gluten-free soy sauce

1 T fish sauce

Juice of 1 medium lime

2 bunches watercress or 1 small head red leaf lettuce, separated into leaves

1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

2 T unsalted butter

In large bowl, place meat, garlic, 1 tablepsoon agave nectar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and no more than 12 hours. (I actually only marinated for an hour, and it was still quite flavorful.) Whisk together rice-wine vinegar, wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, and 1 tablespoon agave nectar and set aside. In small ramekin, whisk together lime juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Arrange watercress or lettuce on four plates.

Divide meat into 2 portions and place in two medium bowls.

In wok or large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until smoking, then add one bowl of meat in one layer. Sear until brown crust forms, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip to brown other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Add half of red onion slices and half scallions, and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 cup vinegar mixture and shake pan to release beef, stirring if necessary. Add 1 tablespoon butter, shaking pan until butter melts. Remove meat, and repeat with remaining portion of meat and remaining onions, scallions, vinegar mixture, and butter.

Arrange beef on top of watercress/lettuce and serve with lime dipping sauce and a side of steamed jasmine or brown rice.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Beef, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy

Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

While we’re starting to feel the effects of spring around here, there are still some chilly, rainy, dreary days hanging around. Now is the time to squeeze in all those wintery comfort foods before it gets too warm around here to truly enjoy them. I think I need to whip up a few more soups, one last pot of chili, and get to roasting as many winter vegetables as I can, before I wake up and realize it’s too late! But first, one key “winter” dish must be executed: pot roast.

I’m sure there are way too many pot roast recipes already, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I share my version. You see, as much as I can grill a steak with ease or whip up a pumpkin soup in no time, my pot roasts, in my opinion, have always left something to be desired. Too dry, too bland, too mushy…you name it, I’ve done it to a pot roast. So over the years, I’ve tweaked my techniques and recipes, making notes along the way. And now, I think I finally have it.

What did I discover that improved my pot roast? Here are a few tips/tricks:

- Some fat=flavor here. I have tried to make a pot roast with a really lean cut before, and it just wasn’t the same. Dry and uninteresting. Chuck roast is my preferred cut. I make a point to skim off the fat before I serve, both to balance flavors and to cut back the fat content in the finished dish.

- Don’t skimp on the salt. While I don’t heavily salt any of my dishes, I’ve found that proper amounts of salt really brighten the flavor of the meat. I salt in two stages – once before I brown the meat, and again once I’m finishing the dish and checking for seasoning balance. What’s the right amount of salt? That varies, depending on whether you’re using a store-bought stock or homemade. (I don’t salt my homemade stocks) It also depends on personal preference. What tastes salty to me might be bland to you. (I’m actually rather salt-sensitive – I have used such a light hand on salt at home for so long, that when I eat in restaurants, many dishes taste very salty to me!)

- Browning the meat before braising is essential. It’s an extra step, and so therefore takes some time, but the flavors are so much deeper when the meat is browned.

- Remove the potatoes from the pot roast, and instead serve mashed potatoes on the side. I just dislike the mushy texture of the soggy potatoes after they’ve cooked in the pot roast all day.

- Using alcohol as a flavor booster. You’ll see in this recipe that there are two kinds of alcohol. While this is not a requirement, I found that the combination of red wine and brandy added a depth to the dish that I couldn’t replicate otherwise. And with 6-8 hours in the slow cooker, I can’t imagine a smidgen of alcohol content remains.

- Taking advantage of that no-fuss, hands-off kitchen appliance: the slow cooker! When I compared the slow cooker to using my dutch oven, the slow cooker created a more tender, moister pot roast. The added benefit of reduced energy consumption (when comparing the slow cooker to the oven) definitely helps too.

So while this is a bit more involved than most of my slow cooker recipes (which are more of a “dump-and-go” routine), it’s worth it. And as with any slow cooker dish, the aroma that permeates throughout the house is wonderful. It definitely brightens any dreary, rainy day!

What makes a good pot roast, in your opinion? Do you have any secret ingredients in your recipe?

Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

1 3 lb chuck roast

salt and pepper

1 large onion, sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

5 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 c mixed mushrooms (or button mushrooms), sliced

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 c homemade chicken or beef stock

2 c full-bodied red wine (I used a dolcetto)

1/3 c brandy

1-2 T cornstarch

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

Pat the roast dry and season with salt and pepper. In a skillet at medium-high heat, brown the roast on all sides. Place the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaves in the slow cooker, and lay the roast on top. Pour the stock, wine, and brandy over the roast. Set the slow cooker to low and allow to cook for 6-8 hours.

Remove the roast and vegetables with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the leftover juices, and skim the fat off the top (or use a gravy separator). Place the juices in a small saucepan. Spoon about 1/2 c of the juices in a small bowl, and whisk in the cornstarch. Pour this slurry back in the saucepan and bring the juices to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir until juices thicken into a gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Place the roast and vegetables back in the slow cooker, and pour the gravy over. Turn on high and rewarm for about 15-20 minutes.

Serve on top of mashed potatoes, garnished with parsley. Serves 6.

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Filed under Beef, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes