May 21, 2013

Recipe Review: Crockpot Balsamic Roast

In the spirit of my last post, wherein I mentioned sharing more of what I’m up to in the kitchen, I offer today’s recipe review. I made this a couple of months ago, actually, so this isn’t so much what I’ve been up to lately in the kitchen as it is me just sharing some darn good eatin’.

This is Crockpot Balsamic Roast, by George Bryant of Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations. (Try saying that three times fast!) George is a bit of a celebrity in Paleo circles, but you certainly don’t need to follow a Paleo diet to enjoy this delicious creation. After all, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to love eggplant parmigiana, and you don’t have to be Jewish to turn to homemade chicken soup for whatever ails ya’. 

George’s website is a jackpot of awesome recipes for entrees of all kinds and some of the most inspired desserts and treats you can imagine. (To be honest, I think he maybe focuses a little too much on sweets and Paleo-fied desserts like brownies, chocolates, and cakes, but this dude was a Marine, so as far as I’m concerned, he can do whatever he darn well pleases. More on that in a sec…) So check out his site for some truly great ideas, most of which don’t require a lot of fancy, fussy ingredients that you have to make trips to three different specialty grocery stores to hunt and gather. Plus, he’s got a cookbook that looks pretty stellar if you want most of his recipes in one, easy to find place.

Okay, so the Marine thing:  even though I was in the Air Force (photographic evidence provided below) and am certainly proud of my military service, brief though it was, I firmly believe that the U.S. Marines are a breed apart. They really are the few and the proud. When I was debating which service to go into, the Marine Corps was the only one I didn’t consider at all, because, frankly, I knew I wasn’t that hard core. So hats off to George, who recently separated from the service. For what it’s worth, thank you, good luck, and Godspeed from me, a total stranger out here on the interwebs who’s grateful not only for your service, but probably even more for your friggin’ awesome recipes.   ;-)

What's with all the Korean people? They were my teachers at
the Defense Language Institute. The only time I will ever
get to live in Monterey, California, rent free.
Everyone who knows me is cracking up at this.
Go ahead, laugh. You do see the weapon, right?
Like I said, I tested this recipe a while back. And maybe it’s strange of me to post a review of a recipe that’s better suited for cold, gray winter days when warmer weather is coming upon us here in Northern VA. But hey, maybe it’s not edging toward summer where you live, or maybe you can appreciate a good beef roast regardless of what the forecast says. Maybe you want to hold on to the last vestiges of heartier food before embracing the lighter fare of summer. (But believe you me, now that the farmer’s markets are springing back to life for the season, I’m all about simple, no-fuss dishes like salads with nothing more than fresh tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, with a little feta, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.)

…And speaking of balsamic, here’s the recipe:

·         2 lb top round roast
Almost impossible to go wrong with one of these babies.
·         1 large sweet onion, sliced
·         8 ounces tomato sauce
·         1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
·         1/2 cup water
·         2 tbsp white wine
·         2 tbsp coconut oil
·         Salt
·         Smoked Paprika
·         Garlic Powder
·         Onion Powder
·         Black Pepper
1.    Season your roast on both sides generously with the spices listed above to your liking
2.    Heat your coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, once warm sear each side of your roast for 3-4 minutes
3.    Place your sliced onions in the bottom of your crock pot and put your seared meat on top of the onions
4.    Combine your balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce in a bowl and mix well, then pour over your meat in the crock pot
5.    Add your water and white wine to your pan and de-glaze it
6.    Pour this mixture in your crock pot as well
7.    Place the lid on, set to low and cook for 6-8 hours
8.    Enjoy

When I try a recipe for the first time, I usually do it by the book and don’t start messing around with it and making it my own until I see if I even like it first. This time, though, I altered a couple of things just to make it easier. Here’s what I did differently:

Sorry about the glare on the meat...who wants
to give me free photography lessons? *Crickets...*

As you can see from the picture, I added carrots and celery, because if there’s one thing a beef stew loves—especially one made in a slow cooker—it’s carrots and celery. (Okay, so two things.) I also didn’t sear the meat after applying the rub. (So I omitted the coconut oil.) I did mix the spices together and make a rub, but I didn’t sear the meat before putting it into the slow cooker. Some cooks claim this “seals in the juices,” but considering this was a crockpot dish, it wasn’t likely to dry out anyway. I also omitted the wine. Why? I just didn’t have any on hand, and I figured 2 tablespoons out of about 2 cups of other liquid wouldn’t make that big a difference. (Maybe I was wrong; I won’t know unless I make this again sometime and include the wine.)

My roast was a little bigger than 2 pounds…more like 2¾. I used plain ol’ “tomato sauce”—not pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce with lots of herbs and spices and other ingredients. And I used regular ol’ balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe’s. (Or “Trader Giotto’s,” as they call their Italian line, hehheh.) When I want full-frontal balsamic flavor, I go with these guys, but that is a whole other post.

The verdict:

A-MAZING!! This was absolutely deliciousMeat so tender you could eat it with a spoon. A home run in the baseball stadium of EASY PEASY meals that require almost no work on the cook’s part. (That is, if you leave out the searing, like I did.) Chop vegetables, toss into slow cooker. Season meat with rub, set on top of vegetables. Add liquid, cover, and let ’er rip! (And it could be even easier: if you have no onion powder for the rub, just add some more fresh onion, and if you don’t have smoked paprika, regular would probably do just fine, although you might lose a tad of the flavor profile.)  

Really, a wonderful dish, and something incredibly comforting to come home to after a long work day, no matter what the weatherman says.

I promise, it was fantastic.
Don't let my sad, sad food photography fool you.

 P.S. For another recipe review, check out my take on a butternut squash soup by Diane SanFilippo.

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