Crock pot (slow cooker) beef in red wine sauce

Ross's note: The problem with slow cooker meat like beef and pork is not that it doesn't get done. It’s that it gets dry and tasteless. I used to think adding more liquid would be the answer. Common sense, right? But not in this case. I consulted several cooking sites as well as my main culinary counselor, Julia Child. She may not have used a slow cooker, but she did know how to cook meat. From those sources and experimenting I’ve put together my best-ever recipe below. I use it shredded in fajitas, but it’s also good on sandwiches, with egg noodles, roasted potatoes or sautéed mushrooms.

Ross’s note: Look for a boneless chuck or other cut with a slab of fat on it. The fat helps keep the meat from drying out. Try to choose no less than a pound and a half; anything smaller tends to get dry. Don’t cube.

Rinse and dry beef with paper towels. Add pepper and salt.

Stir together the wine, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and ¼ cup parsley in a glass bowl or pan.

Add the beef. Turn to coat. Marinade covered with plastic wrap in refrigerator at least four hours or overnight. Turn occasionally.

Ross’s note: An easy and I think more effective alternative is to marinade in a tightly sealed Ziploc style plastic bag. Marinating helps the meat stay moist and adds flavor.

The next day remove the beef from marinade. Pat dry with paper towels; the beef will not brown if it’s wet.

Turn crock pot to low heat. Add chopped onions.

Heat olive oil and butter until it starts to smoke. Brown beef 2½-3 minutes on each side. Remove beef and set aside.

Ross’s note: Browning beef before cooking keeps it more moist. I think it’s more tasty to brown or sauté in butter and oil instead of just oil, and makes a better cooking broth. I suppose it’s not quite as healthy.

Pour marinade into pan; boil 2 minutes.

Ross’s note: Meat cooked with raw alcohol seems to work in the oven or stove top. But in the crockpot the liquid doesn’t evaporate and the alcohol flavor comes on in a way I find raggedly harsh. Just a couple minutes’ boil will tame the alcohol taste.

Place meat on onions in crockpot.

Add boiled marinade until it reaches barely half way up the side of the meat. Discard the rest of the marinade.

Ross’s note: Ironically, if you add too much liquid the meat will get dry, because you’ll be cooking it by boiling instead of roasting and steaming. In fact, you’ll find the roast and onions will shed water and fat and so you’ll probably see more liquid after than before.

Cook 6-8 hours on low.

Shred or cut meat against the grain. Fish the onions out of the marinade and spread over beef. Alternataively, you may boil the marinade to thicken, and serve it over the beef.

Sprinkle beef with reserved parsley.

Serves about four good eaters.