I have a confession to make — I have never used a slow cooker. I know. I know. Yours truly has played with every gadget out there, but eight hours to cook something? I thought technology was to help us save time. So after some navel gazing, I realized that it wasn’t ego that halted my slow cookery, but fear. What if I mess it up? Will the blogs be ablaze with the braising buffoonery of Chef Dad? Oh dear.
So I took the plunge. I asked my neighbour Lars if I could borrow his “Baby Bentley”, as he calls it, and all my fears were allayed once I pulled out the spot-on beef ribs. (I should mention that I was watching the clock a little too often!)
I was impressed with the tenderness of the beef and the vegetables, still holding their shape. My son Yusef enjoyed the secondary use of the beef – leftovers were shredded and put into quesadillas. Now that was something he could dive into it (documented by how much sour cream we go through!)
With this new look on life, I will now tackle other technological breakthroughs such as fabric softener, liquid paper and the flashlight. In fact, I finally took the plunge and joined the world of Twitter. You can follow me @ChefPaulSilva.
Five-Spiced Braised Boneless Beef Ribs
3 lbs boneless beef ribs, halved lengthwise (to fit slow cooker)
2 tbsp vegetable oil1 tbsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste2 pieces of star anise,whole
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, whole
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, whole
8 cloves, whole
1 cinnamon stick, whole
cheesecloth and string
2 carrots, peeled and cut large dice
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut large dice
1 red pepper, cored and cut large dice
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cut large dice
6–9 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, minced
750 ml beef stock
450 ml apple juice
2 tablespoon soy sauce
Season the boneless beef ribs with salt, pepper and paprika. Over medium-high heat, sear the beef in vegetable oil until meat is browned, both sides. Remove from heat and reserve.
In a dry pan, toast the star anise, fennel seed, black peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon over medium-high heat until the spices start to darken a little bit and they start to release their aromas. Remove immediately from heat and place in a small bowl to cool (don’t leave them in the pan, as they might burn.)
Once cooled, place the spices in a small (5" x 5") square of cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with string (you can also leave the spices whole, but they might be tricky to remove them later — it's your call! Making the package might be something fun to do with the wee ones.)
Place the beef, vegetables, spice bag, beef stock, apple juice and soy sauce in slow cooker. Cook on "low" setting for 6 1/2 hours, or until beef is tender, but not falling apart at the touch.
Remove spice bag and skim the fat from the liquid with a large spoon or ladle. Slice beef (careful!) and serve with vegetables, liquid and some crusty bread for dunking.
Keep leftovers in liquid to keep from drying out.
Tip o’ the day: While those spices look great in the glass jars revolving rack sitting near the window, the best way to extend your spices’ shelf life is to keep them in a dry, cool and dark spot. Forget the Costco-sized skid of ground nutmeg (no matter how cheap it is!) – purchase spices in small amounts, preferably whole, and discard any unused spices after six months. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in your dishes!