What do you do if you're fiercely determined to stay out of the grocery store, but want to make a dish that calls for ingredients you don't have on hand?
Break it down and build it back up. I had a couple round steak roast thawing in the freezer and a plan to make Sloppy Joes. This isn't something I make often, but one of those kid-friendly recipes I pull out occasionally.
The recipes I found online call for ingredients I don't have on hand or don't want to use. Ketchup, for example, I have, but I don't want to use my son's special canned ketchup (each jar is labeled "Luc's Ketchup") for this dish nor do I want to use up the last of my lactofermented ketchup. So, I break down ketchup and use that instead: tomatoes cooked to a paste plus vinegar, sweetener, seasonings. I don't keep Worcestshire sauce anymore, but have found that tamari is a fine substitute. We're just looking for some liquid saltines. I don't have brown sugar, but molasses is what makes white sugar brown anyway, so why not use that?
So, here we have Sloppy Joes à Chez Musser. This makes a large batch and could easily be halved, we froze leftovers in pint jars. I served the Sloppy Joes as open-faced sandwiches with lactofermented pickles and Silvana Nardone’s gluten-free double corn bread, the best corn bread I've ever made. Lots of corn flavor and just a touch of sweetness.
2 round steak roasts, cut into 2-inch cubes (save bones for stock-making)
2 tablespoons tallow or ghee
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint tomato paste
4 tablespoons molasses
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari, more to taste if necessary
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan on a medium-high burner then brown meat in batches. Don't crowd the meat or it will steam rather than brown. You want to create a nice brown crust on at least two sides of each beef cube. To do this, let meat sit in one place for 2-3 minutes, resist the urge to move it around. When the meat releases easily from the pan, that's a good sign that the meat is browned. Place brown meat in the bowl of slow cooker. Add a tallow or ghee to pan, then saute carrots, celery, and onion until brown and softened. Add garlic, warm for a minute, then scrap vegetables into bowl with the meat. Add tomato paste to the slow cooker bowl, then rinse the jar or cans and put the rinse water in the saute pan. Cook the water in the pan, scrapping up any bits that are still in the pan. Pour water into slow cooker bowl.
You could skip all of the proceeding steps and simply throw the cubed meat and diced veggies into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients, but by browning everything first, you are creating, through the Maillard reaction, a greater depth of flavor.
Add molasses, vinegar, tamari, cloves, cumin, and pepper to the slow cooker. Mix well, cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.