Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Everyone needs a special roast recipe. It could be your favorite pot roast, rib roast or tenderloin, but I think every home cook needs a recipe where a massive piece of meat is ceremoniously pulled out of the oven and placed onto a special platter, giving you a reason to carve and serve with flair!

This is why I am sharing my tried and true Slow Cooker Beef Brisket recipe. Just imagine a plate of tender, juicy, savory slices of beef, paired with sweet onions, carrots and a delicious gravy, and you’ll know why this is one of my best and easiest recipes.

Unlike other recipes that call for barbecue or tomato sauce, my recipe is simpler and straightforward, allowing the beef’s natural flavors to shine. I use a flat cut brisket, between three to four pounds, with a nice one-inch layer of fat. A brisket of this size will serve a party easily, and is budget friendly too! If you have leftovers, sliced brisket makes for delicious sandwiches and most people think it tastes better overnight.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can prepare this in a conventional oven, going low and slow (just under 300 F). I would encourage you, however, to consider purchasing a slow cooker. The convenience factor along with the ease of cooking is really irresistible (and yes, we are having a sale on a very special slow cooker at HSN!) And, yes, before I forget, I always use a slow cooker liner. It makes clean-up so easy.

Once the brisket finishes cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and allow it to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Giving the meat a rest will ensure easy carving, while allowing the brisket to retain moisture and flavor. Using a sharp knife, cut against the grain (the opposite direction of the meat fibers) creating long, thin slices of delicious, tender meat. Spoon the gravy on top and serve with onions and carrots. Enjoy!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs. beef brisket, flat cut
2 large yellow onions, julienned
1 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
Ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse the brisket with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the meat generously on both sides, using the salt, pepper and cumin.
  2. Fill the bottom of the slow cooker with the onions, carrots and garlic. Pour the melted butter and chicken stock over the vegetables, and with tongs, mix well, coating the vegetables.
  3. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables, fat side facing up. Pour the balsamic vinegar evenly over the brisket, coating well.
  4. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on HIGH for six hours.
  5. When the cooking has finished, remove the brisket and allow to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Stir the chopped parsley into the cooked vegetables. Taste the gravy. If desired, add more chicken stock and adjust seasonings.
  7. Slice the brisket, cutting against the grain. Remove any fat. Ladle the gravy over the meat and serve with the cooked vegetables.
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Slow Cooker Kalua Pork – Aloha!

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork – Aloha!

Kalua pork with chopped cabbage and chestnut rice

‘Tis the season for slow cookers — while I love stews, soups and all sorts of chili, I can’t help but start Crock-Pot Season with a little bit of the Aloha spirit.  Simply take a tender roast pork with a light hint of sea salt and great smokey flavor and you’ve got the mainstay of a Hawaiian luau: kalua pork.

When I say kalua, people assume I’m talking about the cordial.  Kalua is the Hawaiian word for a roasting technique that involves cooking underground with leaves and hot coals.  Kahlua, on the other hand, is a coffee liquer, and seems to play a role in every 20-something’s life (OMG I remember those B-52 shots).  But do keep your mudslides, White Russians and chocolate martini concoctions close-by, because this recipe is so easy, you’ll need something to pass the time.

Trader Joe’s Himalayan Pink Salt with built-in grinder

Like any slow cooker recipe, careful preparation and timing will yield fantastic results with very little work.  My advice is to simply prep the meat, stick it in the refrigerator, then start it in your crock-pot the night before, typically when you go to sleep.  Use a slow-cooker liner and you’ll have even less to clean-up.  The pork takes about 10 minutes to prepare, 16 hours to cook and plenty of forks to enjoy.

A couple of notes on the ingredients: first, there are only four.  Don’t try to add more or get fancy.  Simple and straightforward will give you the most authentic flavors.  Also, most grocery stores will carry banana leaves in the freezer section.  An Asian or Latin market will also have them.  If you can’t find them, you can omit from the recipe.  Hawaiian Sea Salt is the most authentic way to prepare the pork, but if you don’t have easy access to it, I recommend Himalayan Rock Salt or any coarse Sea Salt.  Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to turn the crystals into loose powder.  Some salts are bottled with a built in grinder, making it even easier to enjoy.

I use two forks and a deep baking dish to shred the pork

Once it’s ready, you can serve the kalua pork with rice and cabbage (as they do in Hawaii) or do it luau style, with sweet bread rolls and macaroni salad.  If you have a lot of leftovers, you can try your hand at making manapua.  Personally, I happen to love the pork on a sweet roll, with a combination of spicy sriracha and creamy mayonnaise, smashed together with sour dill pickles and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce.  Be as traditional or creative as you like.  I’ve even seen the pork grilled between tortillas and rolled up into quesadillas, or served on top of fried wonton chips and smothered in cheese and green onions for a Pacific twist on nachos.

‘Tis the season for good eating, right?  Enjoy this easy recipe.

Give the pork a generous coating of the salt and work it into the slits

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
Yields: 8-10 servings
Cook Time: 16 hours

Ingredients:
4 pounds pork shoulder roast, also known as pork butt
4 teaspoons liquid smoke
Coarse Sea Salt or Hawaiian Rock Salt (lightly ground)
Banana Leaves, enough to wrap meat
Butcher’s twine
Water

Optional Serving Ideas: steamed rice, shredded cabbage, sweet rolls and macaroni salad

  1. Using a small knife, cut small slits in the roast.  Coat the roast generously with the salt, rubbing salt into the slits.  Sea salt is not pungent like table salt, so coat the meat well.

    The pork wrapped in banana leaf and secured with twine

  2. Place two banana leaves together so they are overlapping (you may need kitchen scissors to cut the leaves down to size).  Lay the roast in the center of the leaves.  Pour all four teaspoons of the liquid smoke over the meat.  Wrap the meat in the banana leaves and tie with butcher’s twine to secure.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.
  3. When ready to cook, place the meat in a slow cooker set on LOW.  Cook, covered and un-disturbed, for 16 hours.
  4. Remove meat from slow cooker and place in a dish or plate with a rim (I use a 13 x 9 rectangular baking dish).  Carefully unwrap the meat and allow to rest, 15 minutes.
  5. Pour all the juices from the slow cooker into a fat separator or similar shaped tool, such as a liquid measuring cup.  Skim off fat.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot.  Add the remaining juices and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke.  Taste and season as desired.
  6. With two forks, shred the pork.  Pour the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the pork.  Serve hot or cold.
Slow Cooking: Coq Au Vin

Slow Cooking: Coq Au Vin

On Christmas Day, my friend Jim served up the most scrumptious Coq Au Vin.  Tender chicken breast with soft vegetables in a delicious wine based broth – it was wonderful.  In fact, it was so good, it inspired me to give it a try.

Jim used a recipe by the wonderfully talented Fannie Farmer.  After doing some research, I decided to try a recipe from The Balthazar Cookbook.  I’ve long admired this French bistro, so why not?  I pulled the book down from the shelf and studied the recipe — something I’m glad I took the time to do.

Coq Au Vin is not by any means a quick dinner.  It requires two days of marinating and hours of slow cooking.  Since slow cooking has been gaining momentum lately, I decided I would look into it.  Slow cooking is the antithesis of fast food.  Basically, as Michael Pollan put it, slow food enthusiasts “eat real food.”

Now, there are a few peculiarities with slow cooking I found along the way.  In order to truly make a slow food meal, I had to ensure my ingredients were “slow grown” as well.  Meaning, I had to go to the farmer’s market, buy as much locally grown produce as possible, and also, try to get a local chicken.  I found myself running between the downtown farmer’s market, the Mennonite market and the Fresh Market attempting to make the best choices.  As I used a car, I’m not convinced this was wise.  The wine too, should have been locally grown, but seeing as there are no reputable vineyards in the area, I opted for a French import.

(See pictures and step by step instructions here).

The first step in making a Coq Au Vin is marinating the meat.  Although the recipe said to put the chicken in a bowl and refrigerate, I found that I just didn’t have the space.  So I used a plastic container.  Yes, I’m aware of the environmental impacts of plastic, but trust me, I reuse this container and didn’t dispose of it.

The chicken soaks in a medium to full bodied red wine, like cabernet sauvignon.  In addition, largely diced onions, carrots, celery and a bouquet of parsley, thyme and peppercorns join the party.  It is recommended that the chicken marinate between one and two days prior to cooking (see, this really is slow cooking).

Once the chicken has marinated, you can finally start cooking.  I’ll admit, I had a hard time with this.  Typically, I like to be a fast cook.  From chopping to stirring to plating, I like to work fast.  I kept reminding myself that this was slow cooking.  So. . . slow down, lower the heat, take your time.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

The first step is to brown the chicken on all sides.  On low heat, this is about 8 to 10 minutes per side, and I completed this in two batches.  Then, you brown the vegetables.  Once the vegetables have browned, add tomato paste and flour and continue cooking.  After that, it’s time to add the marinating liquid.  Once this is brought to a boil, it needs to be reduced.  It takes at least 30 minutes to reduce properly.

The wine reduction takes on a beautiful texture and shimmer, and the smell is incredible.  With glee, I returned the chicken to the pot and added three cups of veal stock.  Once again, it was cook and wait.  After simmering on low heat for an hour, the Coq Au Vin is almost complete.  Almost.

In a separate pan, I fried up thick slices of bacon with pearl onions and chopped mushrooms.  The chicken mixture was strained and the liquid reserved.  The vegetables, which will be mushy at this point, are discarded and the liquid gets a second reduction.  Finally, after this reduction, the chicken, mushrooms, onions and bacon are combined and the dish is complete.  Coq Au Vin on the table.

I love all types of cooking and especially love international cuisines.  This recipe, however, is painstakingly disturbing.  The end results are phenomenal. . . but it’s just one meal.  Tomorrow, there will need to be another.  Was it really worth 36 hours of preparation?  I think it will take days for me to fully answer that question.