Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday shortcuts

One of my favorite things to do is set my crockpot in the morning and return home in the evening to amazing smells coming from just my few minutes of prep work. And if that couldn't be better, the bread machine is also set to finish just before we are ready to sit down. Mmmmm!
When the weather is cold and rainy, it's down right expected in my house! Today I'll be at a tea party so this is what's for dinner.

I usually always chop up my veggies within a few days of buying them and have them ready in Ziplock bagges for the weeks' menu so when I get home from work, the less prep time the better! If I don't use them up by the end of the week I freezer bag the left over chopped veggies for occassions like a crock pot meal. It doesn't get any easier to go from freezer to crockpot and I don't even get my clothes dirty before leaving for work! ha ha Well today will be no exception. You can customize with whatever veggies you prefer but for my Beef Pot Roast I like potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, celery, corn, chopped garlic and to help make a easy gravy I'll also add a can of condensed soup like Cream of Mushroom. The seasoning packet above does the rest for the flavor of spices.

I remember a couple of years ago my friend Erin and I talked for an hour on the topic of different cuts of meat. I know, only someone who likes to cook would do such a thing. The best diagram I ever saw was from Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on Food Network. I printed out the diagrams with the helpful hints and kept it in my purse for about 6 months until I had it memorized. I'll share some of it with you below...

"Select the Right Cut of Meat..."

Pot roasting is a great technique for less expensive, tough cuts of meat, such as those from the shoulder and neck, arm, or hip and leg. These sections are typically fattier and therefore more flavorful, but they're also tough because they contain more connective tissue than more expensive cuts. Cooking tough cuts slowly in a flavorful liquid melts the fat away and breaks down the tough connective tissue, resulting in fork-tender meat. Beef pot roasts generally come from the chuck (cut from entire shoulder section, between the neck and arm). Brisket, rump roast, and top and bottom round are a bit leaner than chuck and suitable for pot-roasting as well. Leg of lamb and pork shoulder roasts will also work. Whichever meat or cut you choose, look for a roast that's well marbled. The smaller marbling creates smaller pockets of fat, contributing to a moist and compact roast. Avoid roasts with large ribbons of fat, as they will yield a greasy, misshapen, and fatty pot roast.

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