09 May 2010

CrockPot Roast and Veg

So you've found a local beef farmer you like. They feed their cows 100% forage, they roam around free all day in the sun, and get daily massages (the cows do, not the farmer). After much deliberation, you decide on a gorgeous 7-bone chuck roast with superb marbling. Your mouth waters, and then you realize... well what in the world am I going to do with this 2-pound roast?

I have the perfect solution for you: Pot Roast. The best part, you can stick it in a slow cooker, and you don't have to do a thing.
Here's what you need:

Slow Cooker
Chuck Roast (pick an appropriate size for your family and slow cooker; number-7 is my favorite, since the bone-in cuts give the best flavor, also works with brisket, or any other big hunk of beef)
Carrots (2-3 large ones cut into large chunks, or about a cup and a half of baby carrots - no chopping, how sweet is that)
Celery (2-3 stalks, slices or large dice)
3-4 red skin potatoes (quartered, more if you want, they're the best part after the meat!)
1 large onion, sliced into half-rounds (you could also quarter it if you prefer)
3-4 cloves of garlic, cut into long thin sticks (as long as garlic can be anyway)

Salt, pepper, herbs of your choice (fresh or dried; thyme, oregano, rosemary. You could even use Herbs de Provence, or poultry seasoning in a bind)

Red wine, about 1/2 cup (alternatives: apple cider, chicken stock or even plain water are fine)

Here's what you do:

1. Take out your slow cooker. Plug it in. Trust me - it is really annoying to realize an hour after you put this all together that the pot still isn't getting warm... not that that's ever happened to me!

2. Make a few small shallow punctures in the roast, and push your garlic sticks into them. Season your roast with salt, pepper, and herbs. Don't be shy, there's a lot of meat there, and you want it to taste good! Make sure you give it a nice coating.

2. In this order, stock your Crock: 1st onions and celery. Next, place your roast inside your pot. Squeeze as many of the potatoes and carrots around it as possible

I always cut too many veggies - By putting the meat in first, you know exactly how much you can fit. Do the veg first, and you'll probably have to take it all out and start over. Feel free to stuff it all in, as long as the cover fits on, you're good, as the roast and veggies will shrink as they cook. You can always drizzle the leftover veggies with some olive oil, then sprinkle with the same herbs you've seasoned your roast with. Just stick them in the oven about a half hour before dinner is served. (Of course, if you cut them as you need them, you probably won't have leftovers... wish I thought of that before now...)

3. Pour over your liquid of choice, cover, set it and... well, you know. Depending on the heat you use, you will be rewarded with a savory, delicious roast in as little as 4 hours (I recommend however to allow it to cook as long and slow as you can afford. The longer it cooks, the more the proteins will break down, and all that lovely marbling will melt and flavor your veggies).

4. Optional: Once everything is cooked, carefully remove your meat and veg to a serving platter. You may then choose to thicken your gravy. Simply pour the remaining liquid into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir together a slurry of water and cornstarch, and slowly add to your boiling stock a little at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. But remember, as it cools it will thicken further, so don't overdo it!

5. Serve with some fresh rolls from your local bakery, or just as is. Pour a glass of wine and bask in the glow of your Betty Homemaker-esque accomplishment!


For the record, I prefer the CrockPot method for the following reasons: the veggies maintain their integrity without getting mushy, and the meat always comes out more tender. Slow cookers are really very dummy-proof, but if you don't have one, try this:

Just rub the meat with a little olive oil (not virgin - it will smoke) before you season. Then brown on all sides. Saute your onions in the fat that's rendered from your roast, and pour in your liquid of choice. You will have to increase the total liquid to a cup, cup and a half (I'd say stick to the 1/2 cup wine and make up the difference with stock), then return your roast and all the veggies to the pan, cover, and either simmer on the stove top (on low to medium-low heat) or place in a 325 degree oven for about 2 hours. 

Other Ideas:

Add a small can of crushed tomatoes, and add fresh sliced fennel (bulb and fronds) for an Italian style pot roast.

Cut your roast into bite size pieces, likewise with your veggies, and increase your total liquid to about 1 cup (for the slow cooker) for a delicious and hearty beef stew. You may want to add some tapioca starch in the beginning so your gravy will thicken while it cooks (check the manufacturers instructions for tips). Otherwise you can ladle out most of the liquid once cooking finishes, and thicken as above!


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