Last year, we celebrated our arrival in Seattle (one year ago today!) by ordering a family pack of beef, pork, and chicken from Skagit River Ranch to stash in the freezer and use over the course of the year. It was a good idea, so we did it again this year.
Last Sunday morning, Eiko showed up with about fifty million pounds of meat, which Noah and I divvied up while Bromley parked her furry butt as close to the pile of meat as possible, shrinking herself to the size of a Golden Retriever, hoping we’d just forget she was there and walk out of the room, leaving her to her own devices.
Here she is, trying not to be noticed while we unpack the first box:
When I see Eiko at the farmers’ market, she always asks me what I do with certain cuts of meat – she has recipes that she gives out to her customers, and likes to talk shop. As she was leaving, I asked her if she needed any recipes.
“Beef stew,” she said. “Easy beef stew. Like in a slow cooker.”
I’m not really in a slow cooker frame of mind right now. It was 80 degrees in Seattle yesterday, and my neighbor is still leaving gorgeous tomatoes on my front porch (though not for long, as Kathy sadly points out on the DownEast blog). I have a flip-flop tan; it hadn’t occurred to me to make beef stew before at least mid-October.
But maybe beef stew can be different, I thought. Maybe it can be deeply satisfying and earthy and still celebrate summer. I decided I’d slow cook the meat overnight, which might make me oblivious to the amount of heat a slow cooker can kick off over the course of 10 hours , and make a light, spicy broth with not too much meat, but plenty of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and corn, the vegetables cooked ever so swiftly just before serving. Maybe some avocado on top. I put the beef in the slow cooker around 8 p.m.
I woke up a few times during the night, totally ravenous. We were sleeping under a thick, warm blanket of braising beef, and food was peeking into my dreams. By the time morning came, I wasn’t sure the beef would wait until dinner.
Out of bed at 6:15, and straight to the slow cooker. I’ll just have a nibble, I thought. Beef before coffee suddenly seemed like a genius move. I’d gone for the simplest meat-braising technique I know, just the beef and a can of salsa (oh, and a chopped onion, for good measure), and as soon as it hit my tongue, mildly spicy and soft, I knew the stew was history.
Sorry, Eiko. This beef was not destined for stew. It was destined for breakfast.
Using the slow cooker to make breakfast is sort of a new concept for me – I’ve made oatmeal, but that’s . . . well, it’s oatmeal, and no two-person household needs a slow cooker full of it on a regular basis.
There’s nothing really all that sexy about the inside of a burrito. Nevertheless:
Recipe 255 of 365: Slow-Cooked Beef Breakfast Burrito
Place 1 pound good beef stew meat in a slow cooker (directly from package, no browning, no nuthin’), along with a 12-ounce can of salsa (I used Trader Joe’s green) and a chopped onion. Stir to blend and cook on the LO (why is there never a W?) setting for about 10 hours, undisturbed, preferably while you sleep. (Your beef does not need a babysitter.) In the morning, remove the beef from the sauce, and wrap it into a big flour tortilla with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and some scrambled eggs. Serve as is, or – if you really want to start your day off right – whirl the cooking liquid in a blender, place the burritos in an ovenproof dish, pour the liquid over the burrito, top with more cheese, and bake until the cheese is melted. (In SoCalSpeak, that would be a “wet” breakfast burrito.)