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Slow Cooker Beef Ragout with Rosemary
Slow and Steady Cooking Wins the Race
Slow cookers are the best sidekick in the universe. Unlike you or me, a slow cooker will never become impatient or get tempted to move things along by nudging up the heat. Unlike you or me, a slow cooker has nowhere else to be except right there on your counter. The slow cooker provides the cooking; you provide the food to be cooked. The result: fork-tender perfection.
Some foods are better suited to the slow cooker's talents than others. Tough cuts of meat, like those from the shoulders or rump, are excellent. The long cooking gives the muscle fibers plenty of time to break down and become amazingly tender.
Dried beans are another great contender for slow cooking. Beans are notoriously finicky to cook on the stovetop, but they plump up obediently after a few hours in the slow cooker. Hard and starchy vegetables such as butternut squash, potatoes and parsnips are great for rounding out a slow-cooked stew or chili. Vegetables that become unpleasantly mushy when overcooked, such as broccoli and cauliflower, do best when added toward the end of cooking.
With a tool that does all the cooking for you, recipes that let you dump all the ingredients into the pot and walk away have always been popular. But taking just a few extra minutes before plugging in the slow cooker can make a big difference. Sautéing the onions will bring out their sweetness, while searing the meat adds depth and richness to the finished dish. A few seconds over heat will also perk up the flavors of dried herbs and spices.
A slow cooker excels at one thing and one thing only: cooking food extremely slowly. The rest is up to you.
SLOW COOKER BEEF RAGOUT WITH ROSEMARY
3 pounds chuck roast beef
Salt and pepper
3 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon rosemary, preferably fresh
1 pound pasta
Trim the fat off the chuck roast and cut it into large 2- to 3-inch chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat and render the fat from the bacon. Transfer the cooked bacon to the slow cooker and pour off all but one teaspoon of the fat. Return the pan to heat and arrange the beef pieces inside at least a half-inch apart in a single layer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes without moving, so the underside develops a dark brown crust, and then flip. Continue until the meat is seared on all sides. Transfer meat to the slow cooker and repeat with any remaining beef. Pour off all but one teaspoon of fat.
Cook the onion and celery with 1/2 teaspoon salt until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and tomato paste, and cook 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. When the wine has reduced by half, pour the contents of the pan into the slow cooker.
Add the tomatoes, broth and bay leaf into the slow cooker and give everything a stir. Cover and cook for eight hours on a LOW setting. In the last half-hour of cooking, stir in the rosemary and leave the cooker uncovered to allow the sauce to reduce. When cooking has finished, remove the bay leaf and shred the meat with two forks. Taste the sauce and add salt or pepper as desired.
At this point, the ragout can be refrigerated one week or frozen for up to three months. Reheat the ragout before continuing with the next step.
Just before serving, bring a large amount of water to boil, add a teaspoon of salt, and cook the pasta until it's cooked but still slightly hard in the middle. Scoop out one cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta. Stir the pasta into the warm sauce and let them sit for 10 minutes. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce and finish cooking. If the sauce seems too thick, add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out.
Scoop into bowls and dig in.
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Slow Cooker Beef Ragout with Rosemary
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