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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recession Meals

This time of year is perfect for slow cooker meals.  (Remember, Crock Pot is a brand of slow cooker--although most people use it as the generic term.)  Comfort food like stews and slow-cooked meats are great on cool nights.  We're all very busy with the holidays, so having an easy meal to be ready at dinnertime is terrific. 

And in these tough economic times, slow cookers work wonders on cheaper cuts of meat like chuck roasts, pork shoulder and even chicken.  And they use a tiny amount of electricity.

But really, slow cooker meals can be delicious and incredibly comforting.  Pulled pork, beef stew, soups--what's not to like?

Now, slow cooker meals--GOOD slow cooker meals--are not always as easy as dumping stuff in the cooker and turning it on.  To get real good taste, vegetables and meats sometimes need to be browned or sauteed.  You might have to do a little work right before serving, too.  But it's worth it. 

Here's an article from the Salt Lake Tribune that has some recipes included. 

And here's a great recipe I made the other day from Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen.  I only had about half the meat that's called for, so I halved the recipe and it worked great.  Try it!  You'll like it!

BEEF BURGUNDY (serves 8)

1 (5 lb) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 oz bacon (about 4 slices), minced
3 onions, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1/4 c tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c Pinot Noir
1 1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
1/3 c soy sauce
2 bay leaves
2 c frozen pearl onions
1/2 c water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
1 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved if small or quartered if large
  1. Dry beef with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place half of the beef in slow cooker.  Heat oil in 12" skillet over medium-heat until just smoking.  Brown remaining beef well on all sides, 7-10 min; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Cook bacon in skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 min.  Stir in onions, carrot, tomato paste, garlic and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 min.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 min.  Slowly whisk in 1 1/4 cup wine, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Stir broth, soy sauce and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.
  4. About 20 min before serving, bring frozen pearl onion, water, butter and sugar to a boil in 12" skillet.  reduce to simmer, cover and cook until onions are fully thawed and tender, 5-8 min.  Uncover, bring to a boil and cook until all liquid evaporates, 3-4 min.  Stir in mushrooms and cook until browned and glazed, 8-12 min; transfer to slow cooker.
  5. Add remaining 1 1/4 cup wine to skillet and simmer until it has reduced by half, 6-8 min; transfer to slow cooker.  Let stew settle for 5 min, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.  Discard bay leaves.  (Adjust consistency with additional hot broth as needed.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.

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