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    mdlaw's Avatar
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    I think it's magic

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    It's amazing how flavors come together. I wonder if we cooked far enough back in our evolution for our sense of smell to be adapted to enjoy cooked scents, since they smell so good, yet they wouldn't be commonly encountered by any kind of non cooking animal.

    Today I began a slowcooked pot roast. I got a huge round roast with a nice layer of fat on one side, allowed it to warm a bit to room temp and rubbed it with a generous mixture of garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika, then seared it, first on the fat side, then all over, in a cast iron skillet before throwing it in the slow cooker.

    Then I put some diced onions, carrots, celery and garlic into the skillet with the remaining beef fat and a splash of olive oil. After letting that cook under medium low heat the smell was incredible. I felt like a wine taster when I caught the aroma. It was a complex mix of spiciness and meatiness, and I could sense an almost clove or nutmeg kind of edge to it, despite the fact that I didn't use any of those spices. I guess the miripoix really does work some magic. It's wonderful how all the scents and flavors come together.

    Next I put the browned veggies into the crock pot with the beef, poured a splash of wine into the skillet to loosen up all the leftover deliciousness in the skillet, and poured that into the crock too, along with a cup of beef broth. I'm going to let it slow cook on low all day and when I get home... BAM!

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    I have done a a slow cooked beef joint today too! Didn't sear the meat this time, but it is in the slow cooker with three large onions, chopped, three carrots, chopped, sprig of rosemary, tomato puree and water to thin it a bit, hot smoked paprika and carraway seeds. It smells stunning - and it won't be ready to eat for another few hours yet!

    I'm not sure if we did evolve to appreciate cooking scents - but what smells better than garlic softening in olive oil, or bacon cooking, or a shoulder of lamb cooking over charcoal - or a buttery chicken roasting? I wonder if a wild animal would respond to those smells in the same way that I do???

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    mdlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by breadsauce View Post
    I wonder if a wild animal would respond to those smells in the same way that I do???
    My beagle sure does. He's almost 16, nearly blind and deaf, but cook anything and he still pays attention. And searing is key, in my opinion. It gives more flavor to the meat and opens up the spices. Think about the difference between a nicely grilled ribeye, and the same thing boiled- blasphemy, right?

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    Grol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdlaw View Post
    It's amazing how flavors come together. I wonder if we cooked far enough back in our evolution for our sense of smell to be adapted to enjoy cooked scents, since they smell so good, yet they wouldn't be commonly encountered by any kind of non cooking animal.
    Cooking apparently goes way way back into the mysts of prehistory, 200k years plus. So yes, the process sets us apart and perhaps even set us apart.

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    breadsauce's Avatar
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    Yeah, I have always seared too. But I was reading a book about European peasant cooking in the Library the other day, and it said that the idea of many stews was to be a one - pot operation and searing wouldn't have been done every time. So I'm giving it a whirl!

    I was sceptical and still wonder if it will lack flavour - but it certainly doesn't lack aroma! I'll report back either way!

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    mdlaw's Avatar
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    I would imagine that searing depends a bit on the food involved. I don't know a ton about it, but my understanding is that searing works its magic on the proteins in the meet, and the sugars in plants. Cheap cuts that have a lot of fat and connective tissue, of course, are good for stews. I don't know if fat and connective tissue benefit from searing, but I'd doubt it, since they are likely to burn, and the slow cooking will melt or dissolve them anyway. Maybe it's less important for cheap cuts, although mine smelled nice, and I started with the fat side on a dry skillet to melt some fat to facilitate the rest of the cooking.

    With one pot, searing isn't as easy, but it is still possible. I know plenty of dishes that all start with searing or pan frying and move on to deglazing and a braise. OTOH, I would imagine peasant cooking was heavier on vegetables and herbs, rather than lots of meat and spices. Herbs don't do well cooked hot, and most veggies can take it or leave it (although browned onions are God's own food). Some traditional stews are cooked low for days, so clearly that is a time tested technique. Maybe someday I'll do a crock pot comparison of browned vs. exclusively slow cooked ingredients and see how it works out.

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    Well, it was delicious - without searing the meat. I'll certainly do the same again, though probably not every time. BUT - the meat was "crumbly" as though overcooked. I think my slow cooker runs too hot - the broth was bubbling more vigorously than I expected and I reckon the meat was probably done after 3.5 hours. I left it for 5....

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    Holy cow, that sounds delicious!
    Life is not a matter of having good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.

    - Robert Louis Stevenson

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