Crock pot cooking is beloved by so many, for so many good reasons. For me, two reasons stand out above the rest:
- It produces wonderful meals (without a lot of work)
- It’s safe to use while out of the house
For those two reasons alone, it gets my full endorsement. Crock pots, however, are not versatile. Your cooking method options are limited. You can make soups, stews, braised items and stocks. Of course, the possibilities therein are unlimited, as those are fairly large categories, but they are not appropriate all the time. You probably won’t want to make rich lamb stew or Yankee pot roast on a hot July day. There are also many ‘modern’ applications, such as crock pot lasagna, pizza, roast chicken, and so on. These,while good, are not necessarily tradition, and can be very tricky to make. I wouldn’t feel comfortable placing a lasagna in the pot and leaving it to slow cook all day while I am at work.
So let’s embrace it for what it is, and for what we know it does best. And when the time is right to make stews, soups and pot roasts, use the crock pot and produce them the best that you can.
In this particular recipe, I am going for a variation on traditional pot roast. Pot roast is of course braised beef, and usually employees a cheaper and tougher cut of beef. The long slow ‘wet’ cooking method breaks down the meat, tenderizing it. Some cuts, like spoon roast or top round, will never fully tenderize, no matter how long you cook it. Those cuts are better for thin sliced highly seasoned stir fries or fast grilling, like galbi. I find it more appropriate to use sirloin tri-tip, brisket, flank steak or short rib meat for braising.
Regarding the ingredients, I want to point out two things: First, use lots of carrots! Carrots add so much to your beef braises. Second, any grain you may want to add (I am using pearl barley) should be cooked separately and added at the end. It keeps their integrity and whole grains, like barley or lentils, will absorb liquid continuously. Normally braised items (by definition) are seared or roasted before going in the pot, but to stay true to the crock pot, and to make this much easier and less complicated, I will omit those steps. The end result will be incredible.
This is also another winter New England – geared recipe. Think of this on the lingering cold night, when the temperature is well below freezing and nothing beats a hot homemade meal.
Crock Pot Beef
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Yield: 4-5 large portions
5lb tri-tip or fresh brisket beef roast
2 yellow onions, sliced
8 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, fine chop
4 sprigs thyme, fine chop
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups dry red wine
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
beef or chicken broth, warmed (you will need enough to cover the beef, start with 4 cups)
2 ribs celery, medium dice
1/2 lb small red potatoes, wahsed and quartered
1 bay leaf
3 cups pearl barley, fully cooked (start with 1 cup uncooked)
3 tbsp paprika
Take about 1 cup of the warm broth and place it in a mixing bowl. Thoroughly whisk in the tomato paste. Reserve. In the crock pot, add the vegetables, beef, potatoes, herbs, garlic, wine, orange juice, paprika, and a decent amount of salt and pepper. Add the broth mixed with tomato paste. Finish covering the meat with the warm broth.
Follow the instructions for your crock pot. Let simmer over low heat, covered for 8 hours. Once the beef is incredibly tender, add the barley. Serve right away.
This is best served with good fresh crusty bread.