Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slow Cookin' My Way to Delicious

I know, I know--it's been awhile. In the last recipe post I made: Broiled Bacon-Fat Smeared Broccolini, I made the case for how I eat so simply, there's no recipe required. When you are eating meals with simply a meat, a vegetable, and some fat, there's not much to blog about. The old standbys of carnitas, grass-fed beef steaks, grass-fed beef burgers, rotisserie chicken, and turkey breast are all my go-tos. And that's okay. Most of us don't live our lives with something new at every meal. If you like something, you eat it often until you get sick of it. Most people rotate their meals around just a few different varieties. And that's okay as long as you're trying to get a good variety of healthy foods on your rotation. If a recipe is good enough to keep your attention and appetite for quite some time, that's a winner!

Since I HATE cooking late in the evening when I get home after work, I've found myself relying on store bought meals too often. Sure, they can be satisfying paleo-style eats, but it gets tiresome and expensive. I was looking for something new to try when slow cookers caught my eye. I had always thought of them as a fire hazard and never dreamed of leaving something plugged in and cooking all day alone with the cats while I was out and about. But then I realized I could cook something overnight and everything changed. I went with Consumer Search reviews and bought a slow cooker.

Wow, with just a little prep at night and no fuss cooking while I'm sleeping, I have food for a good few days. And the best part--it's freakin' delicious!

My first recipe was a chicken following fellow paleo/primal blogger (who btw is awesome--check out the linked website for fantastic recipes!) The Nutty Kitchen's recipe for Crock Pot Spiced Whole Chicken. OMG it was amazing!  I loved the spice combination and the hearty stew-like sauce it made without any added liquid.  You HAVE to try this recipe!  I fell head over heels for my slow cooker :)

My second attempt was a pot roast. I was thinking of doing onion soup since the onions came out so terrific in the chicken recipe, but onions and I have a hard time getting along. I've tried glasses, contacts, and even my old chemistry goggles, but I still have a hard time cutting them or even being the house with them once they are cut.  I am streaming for the rest of the evening while dinner cooks, even if I wasn't even in the room while they were being cut.  Not fun.

So I had a defrosted Morris Grassfed chuck roast and not much else.  Time to pull something together: MacGyver-style.  Since I had recently marinated a grass-fed flank steak in cilantro and lime juice, I had some leftover limes and chopped cilantro. We always have some coconut milk lurking around the cabinets, so that was an easy pairing for a coconut curry. Thai red curry paste was hiding in the fridge and I had just enough to create a little paste. The garlic packets are now my go-to for easy garlic prep (don't hate me). I threw everything in and realized I forgot to cut the roast to get more flavor into the thick hunk of meat. So sliced it in the pot (carefully! without scratching the pot), rubbed it all around with my hands to moosh the milk and seasoning all together into all the nooks and crannies, then closed the lid.  It took all of five minutes. Yay!

I looked at the slow cooker directions for chuck roast and decided it was somewhere between beef roast (which was 4hrs on Low) and brisket (which was 8hrs on Low). Six hours was perfectly tender and cooked with an aroma that filled the house, giving the "OMG that smells so good it made me hungry" response from my husband every time he went outside and came back inside.  Cool!

That lasted us a good week having it sporadically with lunches and dinners so as not to get tired of it. The sauce was AMAZING sopped up in cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and served in a bowl with a spoon like a stew.  I even sopped it up with broiled bacon-fat smeared broccolini (I could have that every dinner)!  So we tried the recipe a second time, being more diligent with the prep and using a different, tougher cut of meat to see how it works and....perfection! The roast is outstanding once again. Try it yourself!

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Pot Roast
Lip-smacking delicious--this is juicy, tender, shred-able beef fit for a feast!

Prep Time: 5-10min
Cooking Time: 6hrs on Low (or according to your own slow cooker's directions)

1 can of coconut milk (NOT light)
1/2 bunch of washed, chopped cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced
2T Thai red curry paste (make sure the ingredients fit the bill, I used Thai Kitchen brand)
3 packets (more or less, your choice) of garlic (or about 20+ cloves)
3-4 (or more) -lb grass-fed beef roast (sirloin and chuck have worked well), deeply scored for more surface area
NOTE: despite being a curry, this one is very mild on the spiciness--if you want to liven it up, try adding some heat yourself (more/hotter curry paste, hot peppers, cayenne, etc.).

After you have the ingredients prepped, make a paste of the curry and lime juice so you can smear it over the roast (nooks and crannies too!).  Add the garlic and insert into the deep cuts in the roast (it'll melt like but-tah--oh yeah!).  Sprinkle on the cilantro and shove some in the pockets of the roast.  Now pour on the coconut milk.  Lid.  Walk away for six hours and return to deliciousness!

Note: most slow cookers change to warm after their cook time, so it's best to make this right before you go to bed.  Then, when you wake up, you can turn it off and cool it on the counter before whacking it in the refrigerator before you leave for work.  When you return home, the sauce will have congealed a bit, but some heat will melt it all back into a savory, deliciously rich sauce and warm that meat for shred-able delight.  Serve with a spoon as a stew or over Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice (recipe below) to sop up that flavor.  Yum!

Leftovers will last covered/sealed in the refrigerator for a week.

Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice
I was trying to replicate Chipotle's cilantro-lime rice and it works--quite tasty and a great accompaniment to the roast for sopping up the delicious curry sauce!

Prep Time: 15min (or less)
Cook Time: 15min (or less)

1 lime (or more to taste)
1/2 bunch washed, chopped cilantro
1 small head of cauliflower / half a large head per diner (more or less depending upon taste)
salt to taste

For my basic recipe, check out Kristy's Cauliflower Rice.  Here is a derivative:

Wash the cauliflower and break into small florets. Food process them in small batches, looking for the cauliflower to stick to the sides and the blade to spin freely (it tells you when it's done!).  Once done with all the batches, you can either cook with the cilantro, lime, and salt in a skillet or microwave in a covered container until softer and less smelly (cauliflower smells strongly once cut--try to cook it or freeze it at once, seal it up tight, and eat it quickly or your entire house will smell pretty sulfurous). The time it takes depends on your preference for doneness and how much you are trying to cook at once, but it's usually no more than 15min max for large batches.  Stir periodically during the cooking.

Alternatively, you can pre-cook halfway and freeze until you need it.  Then, just defrost, squeeze out some accumulated water or drain, and add the seasonings and cook briefly.  Since cauliflower rice is so messy (those little bits get EVERYWHERE), I like to make a whole bunch and freeze what I don't immediately need.  Timesaver!

So there you have it--a meal that takes very little time to prepare and feeds you and your friends/family heartily or lasts you a good few dinners and lunches.  For me, a slow cooker definitely earns its keep, helping me break out of the "I don't feel like cooking" slump and reinvigorating my paleo-style meals.  I highly recommend it!

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I'm also included on the weekly Paleo Rodeo graciously hosted by Modern Paleo when I get my post together in time.  Check it out for some fantastic recipes and paleo/primal discussions.  Thanks for hosting, Diana!