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Wednesday, December 7, 2011


A beef roast that's been marinated in spiced red wine, then braised in the crockpot with gravy thickened with gingersnaps...that so says "holiday season" to me!  My recipe is a mash-up of a recipe from a 1975 cookbook called The Crockery Pot Cookbook by Lou Seibert Pappas and the Frugal Gourmet's Immigrant Ancestors recipe.

Sauerbraten can be made with a variety of beef roast cuts...I used a rump roast, but eye round, chuck pot roast, bone-in, bone-out, it all works.  It does need to marinate for at least 3 days, if not longer, so making this up and freezing it works well.  The marinade recipe I use is about 2 parts wine to 1 part vinegar, and I'd be comfortable freezing it for up to 3 weeks before I'd start to worry about the acid level of the marinade making mush out of my roast.  You can also leave the beef and marinade in the fridge until you cook it, if you have the space.

A word on browning meat before putting it in the crockpot.  It's a pain.  It completely detracts from the no-fuss appeal of using the crockpot.  It's usually not *really* necessary.  In this recipe though, I think you need to brown at least the top side of the roast.  Reason being that when you take the roast out of its 3-day booze bath, it will be purple.  Purple.  Not purple-y.  Purple.  Like Violet in Willa Wonka.  Purple.  Browning, well, makes it brown instead of purple.  Now if you don't brown the roast, it's not like you'll end up with a roast that looks like a grape popsicle at the end of the day, but it won't be quite as roast-colored as usual either.

To slice a roast well, let it rest several minutes before touching it.  Look for the direction of the grain of the meat...if you see long ridges in the meat, that's the "grain".  Don't cut directly across the grain, or you'll wind up with shredded beef.  Don't cut with the grain or you'll have tough slices of beef.  Make slices at about a 45 degree angle to the grain for the right balance of tenderness and cohesion.

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups red wine (I use Merlot)
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 carrot, chopped coarsely
1 onion, chopped coarsely
1 bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp thyme

4 lb. rump roast

2 tbsp canola oil or bacon fat
1 cup beef stock
3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (from about 1 cup gingersnap cookies)

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit.

Purple roast
Pour marinade mixture over beef roast in a large covered bowl or ziptop bag.  Cover and let marinade in the fridge or freezer for at least 3 days.  Turn the roast occasionally if in the fridge.  (If you freeze this for a freezer kit, make sure to have beef stock on hand in the pantry and freeze ground gingersnap cookie crumbs in a small ziptop bag.)

To cook, heat oil or bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove roast from marinade (do not discard yet) and pat dry.  Brown top side of roast 3-4 minutes.  Brown remaining sides if desired.  Transfer to a crockpot.  Pour out fat from skillet, and put back on stovetop.

Strain marinade and reserve 1 cup of liquid.  Discard remainder.  Add to beef stock.  Add this mixture to skillet and boil 1 minute, stirring brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add this mixture to roast in crockpot.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.

Before serving, remove roast from crockpot and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.  Meanwhile stir gingersnap crumbs into liquid and turn crockpot to high while roast rests.  Serve slices of roast with gravy over noodles or mashed potatoes. 
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