I love my crockpot. I make bone broths with it and render lard and tallow with it and stew meat to make lots of tasty things over the week. I don’t really like using the crock pot to make an end product, something that you pop the lid off and set it on the table. I prefer to use it to make a versatile base that allows me to trim the time for the weeks meals but not be stuck with the same old ever time.
Also, I dislike how cooking in the crockpot impacts seasoning. There is little to no evaporation and, as such, how you season is different. I can’t really explain to you the precise nature of the differences. I just know that the amount of salt I add to stew on the stove is going to be different from what I need to add to it when I crock it.
Since I learned stove top and oven cooking before I taught myself how to use the crockpot, it just isn’t second nature to me.
So, what I like to do with random, or tough cuts of beef that otherwise would just set in my deep freezer:
I crack a large can of chipotle peppers and a couple of cans of diced tomatoes and fill the crock up with things like short ribs and chuck roasts. I have not mastered the potential awesomeness of short ribs. I want very badly to but, I am still mastering the necessary techniques. So, a batch of short ribs, dumped in the crockpot becomes my base for a week in what I can Mexican-ish meals. I always make sure to top off the crock with enough water for it to hit the ‘max’ line on the pot.
After crocking the chosen meat for a good, solid 24 hours, I pour everything through a strainer and separate out the broth from the meat and bones.
I bought these really neat storage containers from Amazon: here’s my review of them.
I use these to pour the broth, really it’s more like a meat liquor at this point, into. Then I refrigerate them and separate out the tallow (from beef) or lard (from pork) that has accumulated on the top. The fat that comes off that broth I use to do things like make pan fried burritos. Or, to add back into the meat, as necessary, to enhance the flavor.
Two things are really important for flavor: Fats and Oxygen.
Without those two things in adequate quantity, you just will never have things that taste really and truly good. And, if you aren’t filling yourself with the cardboard fiber and refined sugar enhanced pre-packaged garbage peddled as food these days, these fats are not harmful. They not only enhance flavor but they help trigger the release of hormones that let your brain know that your stomach is full. Ergo: Good fat content equals portion control.
So to make these really tasty pan fried burritos I separate the meat from the bones and the other various and nasty sinews that have not broken down in the crockpot. These I give to my dogs, who are happy to tend these scraps for me. Once I have the meat clean of the gunk that’s when the fun begins.
I rarely season the beef all at once. Usually I end up putting the bulk of it away in the refrigerator or the freezer and just keep out what I think will make one meal. I have watered down some broth and added beans and corn and chopped tomato and once it’s seasoned up right, it makes a wonderful beef tortilla soup. Or I add some cumin and oregano, garlic and various peppers and end up with some killer meat for tacos or burritos or tostadas. Alter the amount of liquid and what else I add and this meat makes a great chili.
The possibilities are limitless… as long as it’s beef you’re looking to eat.
Last night I made some pan friend burritos. They aren’t exactly chimichangas but they are really good.
I put some re-fried beans and the meat onto a large size tortilla. I added salsa, cheese and, a bit of sour cream. For myself, I also put some home made guacamole. Then I rolled them up Taco Bell style, so both short ends are neatly rolled in and I popped them into a skillet on medium heat.
Now, I’m not very careful. I just dig a chunk of the tallow (turned a nice orange color from the peppers) and plop it into the skillet. There is a lot of popping and snapping because I wasn’t careful to get the fat really separate from the broth. You can either use a nice spatter screen or be more careful getting the fat away from the water than I did.
Watch carefully, because it can be easy to scorch these… especially if you have two toddlers running around in the kitchen like I do. It really doesn’t take long to get some good color and texture on the tortilla and make sure everything is heated through.
A word of caution: Work with hot ingredients. Maybe not the cheese and the sour cream but; the meat and the beans should definitely have been heated before you put these babies together. If you don’t then you’ll end up with a hot and crunch tortilla with icky cold innards.
It’s the same as with anything. Room temp or heated ingredients make the best end product. Don’t pull sausage straight from the fridge and dump it in your omelet and expect it to be good. Either nuke your ingredients, if they take well to that, or dump them in pans and bring them up to a good steaming temperature.
Besides producing a lot of beef that can be flavored in slightly different ways and turned in to many things over a busy week, making up burritos like this can make for good home frozen fare. A couple of these in a neat freezer container can make the trek to work or school and heat well in the microwave for something hearty and home made and cheap for the frugal minded.