Monday, September 23, 2013

Cooking Basics: The Easiest, Most Delicous Roast Ever. Yeah, EVER.

     There are days when you want to assemble some sort of lavish casserole structure for dinner that takes five pans and a good allotment of time for construction. Then there are days when you want to put a bunch of stuff in a slow cooker and go about your life (or go back to bed) and forget about it until you walk into the kitchen and smell it and think "Oh, yes, my house elf has done well preparing dinner tonight!" Except not really, because a) if you have house elves you are an abomination of a human being and b) they're technically not real. And I guess c) you actually did the work yourself a few hours ahead of time. Anyway, for those days when you don't wanna do any real work, this is one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. 

     The beauty of this recipe is it's simplicity, because if you don't add anything to it, it's just a classic Sunday beef roast type deal, and it's homey and comforting and delicious. But if you feel adventurous, you can build on it however you want. It's one of the recipes I think of when people insist to me, "I can't coooook" and I tell them to shut their lie-faces up, because some things literally anyone can cook. The secret of its deliciousness is the three basic ingredients that you HAVE to do how I say (I mean, not really. But I'm as good an authority on this as any. You don't even know Alton Brown, are you sure you want him telling you how to cook your food?). Everything else you can screw around with. The basic ingredients:

1. Beef
     Another great thing about this meal is you don't have to buy expensive meat. Any chunk of beef will turn out just fine if you cook it long enough to make it tender, so don't waste your money on the nicest cut you can find, now is not the time to be a meat-elitist. The only real guideline I have for you here is make sure it'll fit in your slow cooker, which I kind of feel like I shouldn't need to tell you, but I did call this post Cooking BASICS, know. Do that. 

2. Beef broth 
     "But why do I need beef broth if I'm cooking beef?" Because cooking is just a modern, de-stigmatized form of witchcraft, and you don't see witches being like "Oh, but I already have newt in this potion, why would I add eye of newt too?" do you? Trust. It's important. It makes magic happen. The guideline for amount here is essentially, "some." You'll want enough to at least halfway cover your roast, generally, but err on the side of adding too much. Too much and you'll just have to kind of fish your meat and potatoes out, which is no big deal, but too little and it'll be too dry and you'll RUIN EVERYTHING, no pressure. Just add some broth. 

3. Potatoes
     Baby yellow potatoes are the best for this, because the beef broth softens them perfectly and makes them so buttery rich and delicious that you will take a bite and actually sigh and think about how lucky you are to be a human being with access to a Crockpot instead of like, a beaver stuck eating tree bark. That said, if you insist on messing with perfection (or you just want to try something new) you can use red potatoes. I maintain that baby is the only acceptable age group of potato for this, though, because they cook up soft all the way through and you don't have to chop them at all. 

     This is the Triforce of Deliciousness. If you throw just these three ingredients into a slow cooker and let them do their thing for six hours, you'll get delicious dinner every time. But here's some ideas for things you might want to consider adding: 

     --Veggies: Onions (Vidalia or any kind of sweet onion is particularly yummy), Carrots, diced Tomatoes, Peas... any of your typical stew vegetables will cook up well here.

     --Seasonings: Spices and flavor add-ons are a good way to make any food taste like you worked harder on it than you did. For this recipe, you can take it into a spicier territory with some chili powder or red pepper flakes, go for a barbecue-like spin with brown sugar and a splash of vinegar (for tangyness, and it also helps tenderize the meat if you bought a tough-ish cut), or go upscale and add some red wine. 

     --Miscellania: If you want to easily take this from a roast to more of a stew, add the vegetables of your choosing at the beginning and a bit of flour towards the end of the cooktime, then when you're ready to eat, take the roast out and shred or cut it, then throw it right back in. Egg noodles are also delicious; again, just throw them in a bit before you're ready to eat (pro tip: if you're adding noodles, drop a dollop of sour cream in, too for bonus tastiness). Just keep in mind that if you're adding any dry ingredients like noodles (or rice, even!), you'll need to use more beef broth to account for that. 

     There you have the basics for this recipe, oh ye who swear ye cannot cook. Seriously anyone can make a good beef roast, regardless of cooking experience, so I'll hear no excuses on this one. Go forth and make savoriness!

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