Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crockpot Beef with Mushroom Gravy

This is a healthy version of a classic comfort food, beef with gravy, loaded with lots of mushrooms and onions.  If you don't like mushrooms and onions, leave them out and you'll still have a great base for a delicious gravy.  We LOVE mushrooms, so I included a lot of them sine they cook down so much.  Again, you can use less or none at all.   Serve this meal with healthy versions of your favorite sides, such as lightened up mashed potatoes, steamed peas, roasted brussel sprouts - any winter comfort food.  

Let's talk portion control for a minute.  Even though some of these recipes are lower in fat and calories that other versions, you still need to watch how much you would eat at one sitting.  I like to make sure that half of my meal is vegetables.  I don't want/need to eat more than 1 cup of a particular veggie at a time, (unless it is a big salad), so that's why I like to cook two or three different ones.  And if you cook them with little to no oil, then they are VERY low in calories.  Then 1/4 of the plate is meat, 1/4 or less is starch.  That's how I maintain portion control with these dishes. 

Back to the beef...I started looking for crockpot ideas with london broil, a cut of beef shoulder, since I had one in the freezer.  London broil is a very lean cut of meat, so it often has the bad reputation of being tough if not cooked properly.  I always had it marinated and grilled growing up, but this is a great alternative for tender meat on a cold, snowy, or rainy day.  I came across this recipe idea but it had canned soup and that's not exactly part of the Healthy Home Revolution.  So I decided to just cook up something on my own.

It was delicious!!!  The beef was falling apart tender, it had great flavor, and the gravy was amazing.  Served with lightened up mashed potatoes, peas, roasted asparagus, and roasted brussel sprouts, it made for a meal I will crave again.  Total comfort food, with the fat and calories trimmed. 

Happy Cooking!

Crockpot Beef with Mushroom Gravy
An original recipe inspired by classic comfort food
2 lbs of London Broil, or beef shoulder steak, all fat trimmed
2 cups of beef broth or beef stock (I have this organic beef base that you mix with water from Whole Foods)
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I used my garlic press)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, cut in half and them sliced
2 - 8 oz pkgs of sliced portabella mushrooms (16 oz total)

Place the steaks on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Place the sliced onions and mushrooms on top and pour the beef broth over that. 
Steaks with seasonings
after I added the other ingredients
Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.  Remove the steaks and shred or slice them up.

After only 3 hours the mushrooms cooked down so much
And the final product - lots of yummy broth.
Now its time to take that yummy cooking liquid and make a gravy.  You can easily skip this step and just enjoy the broth as an au jus.  However, my hubby really likes gravy, so I delivered.  Take a frying pan over medium heat and make a roux by melting 2T of butter until is starts to become frothy (be careful not to burn it).  Add 2T of flour and whisk until flour and butter is combined.  Continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes until flour is golden in color.  Add about 1/2 the broth from the crockpot, saving the other half to keep the meat in.  (To make this step easier, I took the meat out along with most of the mushrooms & onions using a slotted spoon.  Don't worry if some of the mushrooms & onions get in the frying pan.  You'll still be able to whisk it).  Whisk until smooth.  Bring to a boil and continue to whisk occasionally until it thickens to your liking.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Now add the mushrooms & onions, as many as you desire in your gravy.  Turn off the heat and serve immediately over the sliced beef and mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!

Cooking note:  There are three ways to thicken up the liquid and I consider all to be healthier than store bought canned soup:  make a roux, a cornstarch slurry, or use arrow root.  Either way, the first two methods are based on a 1 to 1 ratio, either 2 T oil/butter to 2 T flour, or 2 T cornstarch to 2 T water.  The only difference is that you make a roux over the heat, then add the liquid (I gave details to that approach above).  With a cornstarch slurry, pour the cooking liquid in a pan and bring to a boil.  Mix up the slurry, then add the slurry to broth continuing to boil.  Continue to cook until thickened.  This is traditional used in Asian sauces, but I've seen it used in other sauces and gravies instead.  I have absolutely no experience with arrow root, but I've seen Giada use it in a few recipes.

Our sides: asparagus, brussel sprouts, peas, and mashed potatoes

The plate before the mushroom gravy...

And with the mushrooms gravy.  Yummy!

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