Sammich Pr0n – Italian Beef Sliders

DSC_6119 [1600x1200]We were in the local Kroger store yesterday making a quick run for odds and ends and ran across these ciabatta rolls in the deli bakery section.  I was thawing a beef roast for the Italian beef and thought them right for sliders.  They were perfect.  The Italian beef was pretty good, I had started it in the oven but saw it wasn’t going to be done in time so I transferred it into the crock pot to finish and cooked something else for dinner.  The roast had a dozen or more cloves of garlic shoved into slits and was seasoned with salt and pepper.  It did brown well while it was in the oven.  I sliced several Vidalia onions that I needed to use into the pot, added a quart of beef broth, dried basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes.  I let that cook on high for several more hours, taking the meat out when it was falling apart.  I dumped the remaining liquids and onions into a pot and reduced them by two thirds, then added the beef back and broke it down with forks.  That all spent the night in the fridge.  It’s always better the next day.DSC_6117 [1600x1200]

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Portuguese Beef and Pasta

Years ago, when I was first learning to ski, I was very frustrated by the amount of time I spent on my ass and not skiing.  Someone told me that if I wasn’t spending  a lot of time picking myself up, I wasn’t really skiing. I needed to push my limits to get better. In other words, it was all good.  I find that information works for a lot of things in life.  Cooking is no exception.

This week, I spent a lot of time on my figurative ass, playing with the new crock-pot making various recipes.  There were epic failures.  The first thing I tried was a slow cooker meatloaf.  It called for a basic meatloaf recipe – I have a favorite – and then cook all day on low.  The results were not stellar.  More like steamed meatloaf.  An unappetizing color and texture.  Not the nice deep brown of a good baked loaf.  I was able to salvage it by cutting it into thin slices and frying it up for sandwiches.

I'll stick to these scalloped potatoes from now on.

The next failure was the scalloped potatoes.  This called for a slightly modified recipe, a bit more moisture than in the baked method.  The flavor was fine, the texture was horrible.  Kind of like if you reheated some that you baked.  Rubbery and chewy.  I’m not sure how you could modify the recipe to get a creamier texture.  I’d love to hear any ideas in the comments.

The rest of the week was spent making traditional slow cooker foods – soups and a lovely pot roast.   It wasn’t a total loss.  I did learn that for a fool-proof slow cooker recipe it’s best to have a recipe that can cook, unattended, all day without risk of ruin.  Both the potatoes and the meatloaf really could not have cooked any longer than they did.  They would have turned out even worse.

So that was adventures in cooking this week.  What foods do you use your slow cooker for successfully? Anything usual that we’ve never thought of?  Hit the comments.  Next week I think our theme will be Mardi Gras, and I’m hoping you’ll come prepared to share some favorite drinks as well as Cajun food recipes.  Someone should bring the King’s cake recipe, too.

Here’s one of my favorite fool-proof slow cooker recipes:

Portuguese Beef & Pasta

This works best if you cook the pasta separately and either add it to the beef the last 15 minutes or serve the beef over the pasta.  This is one of those slow cooker recipes that the longer it cooks, the better it gets, usually 10 hours minimum for best flavor.

  • 1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips, remove excess fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz dry macaroni**

Slow-Cooker and saucepan

Add beef, salt, pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf & red pepper to Slow-Cooker. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually 8-10 hours on low) until beef tears easily with a fork. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well (you don’t want any water in your beef mixture) and mix beef and pasta and serve.

**Ditilani works really, or any tiny pasta, like tiny elbow macaroni or tiny bow-ties.

Gadget Post: Crock-Pot

So I decided I needed to update my crock-pot, which was really my mom’s crock-pot, so that puts it in the 30+ year old range.  It was the kind that the crock was not removable, so it was a pain to clean.  But it has served me well, so I always questioned the need for a new one.

It has now been handed down once again and will probably continue to slow-cook on for another 30 years.

Now I just had to decide what I needed in a slow-cooker.  Size was one consideration, I have no need for a 6-QT or larger.  I rarely cook that much at one time to justify the space it would take up.   4-5 QT seemed the perfect size.  Consumer Reports did a report on slow-cookers a while back and two things were clear, you didn’t need more than 3 heat settings – high, low and warm – and dials worked better and lasted longer than a digital display.

I found a little 4-QT Crock-Pot, it had only two heat settings, but to get the warm setting I’d have to go up to 6-QT and that was a no-go.  It looks to be perfect for my needs and it will get its first real test with a couple of pot roasts in the next two weeks (one will be a test recipe, the other will be one for guests – that is if the test recipe turns out ok).

I’ll keep you posted.  Until then….

EDIT:  I meant to add a couple of links.  This is one of my favorite slow-cooker recipes and here are the search results for slow-cooker recipes on the blog.