Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crockpot Cooking: Country Style Steak

Allrighty. You can get this in any cafe, family style restaurant, cafeteria style restaurant, or hole-in-the-wall dive. At least you can here in the South. I've even seen about a bizillion recipes for this that call for cream of mushroom soup and a packet of brown gravy mix. In fact, that's what my original recipe was. BUT, this is not soup-and-powdered-gravy (can you hear your blood pressure rise from all that sodium?) country style steak. Nope. This is honest to goodness, homemade country style steak, and you'll never regret making it this way.

Country Style Steak

cubed steak             onions
mushrooms              beef stock or water and beef base
flour                         milk or cream
olive oil                    butter                       
salt                           pepper

Slice your onions and mushrooms.
Heat some olive oil and butter and add your onions.
Sprinkle with pepper. Do not add salt here.
You don't want them cooked to death. Just cook them
until they're pliable and have some color.
After removing the onions, throw in your mushrooms.
Same goes for the mushrooms. Just cook 'til they
are softened and have a little color.
Remove them from the pan and take the pan off the heat.
Prepare your cubed steak. I cut all the larger pieces, except
for two or three I'll leave big for hubby and Superman.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you started at lunch you can sprinkle them with
meat tenderizer in place of salt, but don't do this if they will cook all day or you'll
have meat mush by suppertime. Return your pan to the heat and add oil and butter.
Dredge the pieces in flour and fry on each side for a few minutes.
I have stock thawing/melting in the saucepan behind this.
These do not need to be cooked all the way through.
Just brown them good on both sides.
Between panfuls, assuming you have more meat than will
fit in the pan at one time, pour the used oil off in a measuring cup,
 scraping all the little brown goodies up off the bottom of the pan.
What is brown and tasy now will be black and nasty by the time
you've finished with all the meat unless you pour it off each time.
You need fresh oil and butter for each panful of meat.
When all the meat is done, pour your oil and browned bits back
into the pan. Add more oil and/or butter if necessary and dump in the
leftover flour from dredging the meat, forming a rue. How much rue
you'll need depends on how much gravy you'll need to completely cover
the meat in the crock pot. I needed a lot. Let this brown, but don't burn it.
When your rue is ready, pour in your stock (or water).
If your stock was hot, like mine was, it's a really good idea to
remove the pan from the heat because the gravy will spit and bubble
like an exploding volcano while you're stirring it in, and you need to
stir the whole time to keep it from clumping. Once things have settled
down and the gravy is simmering you can add beef base if you used water.
You can also add the milk or cream at this point. You want the gravy a
little on the thin side. It will thicken as it sits and you may need to add a
bit more stock or water before you get the end of the assembly process.
This is where you taste and add salt if needed.
Okay, you're almost there. Pour a little of the gravy into the bottom of the slow cooker.
Then start layering the meat, onions, mushrooms, and gravy.
This is what it should look like before you add more gravy and start another layer.
You don't need a huge layer of gravy between each layer of meat and goodies.
The rest of the gravy gets poured on top of the whole thing and then set the pot to cook all day on low if you started in the morning. If you started at lunch, turn it on high. In a few hours your house will smell heavenly.

Mixing a packet of gravy mix into a can of cream-of-mushroom soup and adding water is slightly easier, but you still have to brown the meat (and who could go wrong spending a little time sauteing mushrooms and onions), so you're not saving a great deal of time. I used to make it that way. Before I learned as much as I know now about nutrition. Before I had a child that would have been labled hyper had I ever taken her to be diagnosed, and who is sensitive to processed foods. Before my feet spent 6 months looking like dirigibles during my fifth pregnancy. So yes, at one time I did use powdered gravy and a can of soup, but never again. My family deserves better.
I know this isn't one of my simpler crock pot recipes, but your hubby will thank you. Your kids will love you, and until they're big enough to notice what they are and then object on principle, they'll eat those gravy covered mushrooms and onions.

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