Braised Beef with Anchovies and Rosemary (Vitaclay)

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

So how was everyone’s Super Bowl XLV Sunday? Ours was pretty quiet but it was nice since we spent all day Saturday helping my SIL buy a new car. She recently got a new job (congrats sis!) and her current car has taken her as far as it can go. So RIP Green Hornet, your job is done.

Since getting the Vitaclay, I’ve made the best white rice I’ve ever made and a Braised Beef with Anchovies and Rosemary dish from The Italian Slow Cooker. The Mister wanted a meat dish and I had all the ingredients for this dish on hand. The only thing that concerned me a bit was that I had boneless beef round instead of boneless beef chuck. Round is leaner than chuck and I had intended on using it to make some chicken fried steak. But I thought what the hell.

I adapted the recipe’s cook time for the Vitaclay. The conversion is a 4:1 on low and 2:1 on high Basically it means that if a slow cooker recipe calls for 4 hours on high, it will only take 2 hours in the Vitaclay (or 8 hours on low and 2 hours in the Vitaclay). More about my first impression of the slow cooker feature after the recipe. I halved the recipe (from 6 servings to 3) and a total cook time of 1.5 hours. We tested the meat at 1.5 hours and then 2 hours later on warm cycle. The beef was tender at the 1.5-hour cooking time but was very dry after 2 hours on the warm cycle, which is what I figured would happen. I think chuck or boneless short ribs would have done much better on a longer warm cycle. The flavor, however, was delicious. For those who don’t like anchovies should try using it as a seasoning like this dish does. The strong flavors of anchovies mellows out, almost disappearing into the sauce. It’s wonderful and you won’t even know there were anchovies in it unless I told you (which I did).

Just a quick word on the cookbook. If you’re looking for a cookbook that allows you to just throw things into the slow cooker and hit a button, then this isn’t really the cookbook for you. I think many people have had that bland, tasteless slow cooker dish, total turn off. Certainly was for me all these years. But as Anne Burrell would say, brown food tastes good! And this book is all about browning food before dumping it all in the slow cooker. Yeah, it’s more time consuming but it will literally transform a blah dish into a good dish. So know this going in.

For this dish, I modified a few things: cut the recipe in half, added sauted mushrooms, and used boneless round beef (but really should have used a fattier cut). As far as the mushrooms, you don’t have to saute it in butter like I did. You can just toss them into the slow cooker along with the browned meat. Alhtough we loved the overall flavor, we felt the dish really needed some type of vegetables, say a bit of carrots or parsnip, and defiinetly more mushrooms. A note about adding salt to the recipe. Since this dish calls for anchovies, which is very salty, I didn’t feel the need to add anymore salt. I recommend not adding any salt until after the dish is done. Taste it and if you feel it needs more salt, add it then.

Adapted from “The Italian Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 oz pancetta, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3-inch fresh rosemary sprig
  • 7-8 white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until brown. Transfer pancetta to slow cooker pot, leave as much of the rendered pancetta fat in pan as possible. Add oil to pan and heat. Pat the beef dry and add as much beef to the pan as will fit without crowding. Work in batches as needed. Cook meat until browned on all sides. Transfer meat to slow cooker pot.

Spoon off excess fat from the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic and anchovies, cook and stirring for 2 minutes. Smush the fillets with the spatula to help anchovies dissolve. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan. Get all those brown tasty bits off! Pour the liquid into the slow cooker. Add the rosemary and ground fresh pepper to the slow cooker.

If not sautéing mushrooms, add raw mushrooms to slow cooker pot.

If sautéing the mushroom in butter:  Add butter to pan, melt on medium heat. Add mushrooms to pan and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Don’t move the mushrooms, just back away and let it cook in the melted butter. The bottom of the mushrooms will start to brown. Turn it over once and let it brown for another 3 minutes or so. Transfer the mushroom and any remaining liquid in the pan to the slow cooker pot.

Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours or 1.5 hours in the Vitaclay, until the meat is very tender. Discard the rosemary and serve hot. We had it over rice, made in the Vitaclay of course!

Initial thoughts on the slow cooker function:

The Vitaclay has one cooking temperature and the warm setting; it doesn’t have adjustable cooking temperatures like some slow cookers. I think it would be nice to have that feature but I don’t know how feasible it would be due to the rice cooker feature but it would be the ultimate multi-cooker in my book if it did.

It has a delay cooking feature which is nice since the cooking temperature is not adjustable. However, since the pot is a nonglazed clay pot and is porous, I don’t know how it would hold up to a delay of say…2-3 hours with liquid in it. I plan on testing this at a later date. 

Also, the thing to be careful with as far as using the delay cooking timer with any slow cooker  is food safety. Raw meat in an unrefrigerated environment always poses a food safety concern. So with any slow cooker, I wouldn’t really use the delay feature unless the delay time is within the recommended time frame for food safety. The problem I see with using the Vitaclay’s delay feature is the lack of more than one cooking temperature. Since it can’t be turned on low, I would have to start cooking almost immediately. With the Vitaclay cooking everything in about half the time of a conventional slow cooker, the food will be ready faster and would have to sit in the warm setting for a much longer time. With some type of meats, well, that could result in dried out meat, yuck! I’ll need to check the temperature of the warming feature to see if it’s even feasible to use that as a low cooking feature.

What I see myself using the Vitaclay slow cooker feature most often is for braising if I don’t feel like baby sitting it on the stove top. Sure I could do it in my oven but the Vitaclay doesn’t heat up my house, especially nice on warm days! I also think it’ll cut down the amount of time needed to braise some meats, like short ribs. So that could be a big plus.

Overall, the Vitaclay does have a place as a slow cooker in my kitchen but won’t necessarily replace a traditionaly slow cooker if I need something to cook slow and low.

To wrap up this post, I tested the brown rice feature on it yesterday and OMG, we had fluffy brown rice! I don’t think I would have ever described brown rice as fluffy and it was delicious! Best tasting brown rice we’ve had. I could have had a bowl of this like I would white rice, unheard of. The rice grains were nuttier and even slightly sweet, which I’ve never really noticed before. I served up some Chicken Adobo with it and it was delicious! BTW, I’ve modified my chicken adobo recipe a bit. Instead of regular distilled vinegar, I use cider vinegar now, which gives it a really nice flavor that’s not as acidic as with regular vinegar. Also, I don’t brown the chicken after it’s cooked but rather before hand (before cooking the onions and garlic). I find this made a much tastier broth. I’ve also made it without any kind of browning the chicken but that just lacks depth and just goes to prove that brown food tastes good. How yummy does this look? I only wish I made a bigger batch.

I hope everyone has a good week. I think we’re expecting some showers later in the week and cooler temps by tomorrow.

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