Thursday, September 9, 2010

Slow cooker beef roast with mushrooms & tomatoes

Look at that!  Is that not one of the most colorful, hearty bunch of ingredients you've ever seen?  And who would've thought that the most labor-intensive part of executing this recipe came when I had to photograph this in the wee hours of the morning?  Seriously, people.  There is more work involved in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I'm certainly not knocking the classic duo of PB&J, but I'd venture to say that most people wouldn't think of serving them to company for dinner.  Not having any dinner guests?  Neither did I, but that didn't stop me from making myself a fancy Sunday night or company-worthy dinner.

As I've discovered this summer during bouts of intense heat and fits of oven boycotting, the slow cooker/crock pot is truly an unsung kitchen hero.  Like many people, I feel like I consume much less meat during the warmer months (save for burgers and hot dogs), mostly because large cuts aren't easily cooked stove-top or without a grill.  So you can imagine my slight panic when I arrived home from the grocery store and was taking stock of what I'd purchased.  Two 2-pound beef roasts.  I can't remember the last, let alone the first, time that I'd personally bought a beef roast.  Now I had two hunks of cow sitting in my refrigerator, wondering what might become of them.  In my defense, they were BOGO, so I scored 4 pounds of lean fresh beef for about $8.  Somewhere in my head, the phrase "It's not a bargain if you don't need it" began repeating itself.

Determined to outsmart myself, I brainstormed how to give these roasts the royal treatment sans a hot oven.  That left me with the slow cooker, which turned out to be the most fool-proof base for creating a recipe.  If there is one cardinal rule of crock pots, it'd be this -- include a liquid!  Yup, that's it, folks.  Wine, stock or broth, condensed soup, or even water.  This will keep the pot's contents from drying out.  Throw in any meat, veggies, and beans that you like, seasonings as well, and cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  I'm a little ashamed that I'm even typing up a formal recipe, but hey, I do what I can to help you out.  If you've never used a slow cooker (maybe it's been tucked away in a kitchen cabinet collecting dust since your bridal shower many years ago?), let me be the first to encourage you to try it!  You won't mess it up, I promise!

If not having an exact recipe is wrong, then I don't want to be right.  What started with the impulse meat buy, ended in a fall apart at the slightest touch from a fork delicious and savory dinner.  I honestly threw everything in the crock pot around 7 in the morning and came home to an apartment smelling like a fine dining establishment.  The tomatoes are little red gems, bursting with sweetness.  The mushrooms absorb all of the rich flavor from the barely salty broth and wine (drunken mushrooms!).  And that beef... ohhhhh the beef.  Though the place settings that evening included steak knives, let's just say they went back into the utensil drawer, clean as a whistle.  When I first removed the roast and was about to carve it, the meat simple fell apart under the pressure from the tongs.  See?

Slow Cooker Beef with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

A few notes: No broth?  Use water.  Or want to use beef broth?  Go for it!  Want to throw some carrots in there?  Be my guest!  Honestly... you really can't go wrong.  

2-3 lb. beef roast, trimmed of fat
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups button mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in pot of slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  Remove thyme stems and discard.  Serve, possibly with crusty bread for sopping up the excess juices, and enjoy your "hard work."  I won't tell if you don't. :)

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