Monday, January 6, 2014

Pot Roast and More on a Monday Night

Pot Roast with green beans on a Monday night.
I've always held the position that you should serve a good dinner on Monday night. Monday can be a tough day for anyone, whether you are returning to the office, work at home, go to school, stay home with your kids (work at home, I know) or even if you are retired. After a busy weekend, we often start the week out stressed or tired, and I know at least two people who say they have a hard time sleeping on Sunday night, because they are worried about Monday! 

I've written about this phenomenon before, and you can read about it, and check out my recipe for Pork Roast, HERE .

To combat those Monday doldrums, it's nice to have a good dinner to look forward to. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to drag your slow cooker out of the closet and put it to good use. Today, mine is simmering away with a pot roast and vegetables. See how old mine is? It still works really, really well.

My Old Slow Cooker. Still works.
My mother made good pot roast and she always used a chuck roast. We've decide we don't love a shoulder roast. Chuck is better, but try and find one on sale. It used to be a cheap cut, not so much anymore.

 There are many ways to cook a pot roast:  In the oven, on top of the stove or a combination of both cooking methods. The easiest way by far is to dump everything into the slow cooker, turn it on and walk away. The gravy suffers a little, but I'll give you some tips on how to fix it up, so that it tastes very much like the gravy you get when you first sear the roast and then slow cook it. This is a BASIC recipe and you can certainly experiment with herbs that you like. I've thrown in a bay leaf, used summer savory, and added a little fresh rosemary and thyme to this, all with good results. Think of this like a map to get you in and out of the kitchen quickly on a busy day.
At the very end, I'll tell you how to make your leftover roast into the best beef stew ever! IF you've got any leftovers!
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
2 - 2.5 lbs. chuck roast, excess fat removed
1 cup tomato sauce
2+ T. worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
4 medium onion
4 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled
16 mini carrots, or 4 whole carrots, cut into 4 - 6 pieces
1/4 c. dry red wine**
3/4 c. beef bouillon, divided usage
2 T. corn starch
kosher salt and coarse pepper

Cut an onion in half and dice one half of it into very small dice. Put that in the bottom of your slow cooker along with 1/2 of the  minced garlic. Take 2 mini carrots or 1 piece of a whole carrot and slice thinly. Place that on top of the garlic and onions and then put your roast on top of that. Sprinkle the roast with salt pepper and the worcestershire sauce. Pour on the red wine and 1/2 c. of the tomato sauce. Put on the lid, turn your cooker on high and go get a shower or throw in a load of laundry and make the bed or all 3 of these. Leave that mixture in there for about an hour, then on top of the roast, layer in the potatoes, alternating them with the rest of the onions that have been peeled and cut in half. If you are using herbs, add them now. Make sure they are distributed evenly on top of the meat, potatoes and onions. Throw the rest of the carrots and garlic on top. Pour another 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce, and the beef broth over everything, and sprinkle once more with salt and pepper. Put the top on, turn the cooker down to low and leave it alone for 6 - 8 hours. 
When you are almost ready to eat, remove the vegetables and the roast carefully with a slotted spoon to a large oven proof platter or big shallow serving bowl. Place this into a preheated 250 degree oven. You'll get a little color on your roast and potatoes like you'd seared them. 
Pour the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan. Mash up any big pieces with the back of a fork. Mix the remaining beef bouillon with 2 heaping T. corn starch and enough water so that it measures 1/2 cup total.  Make sure that the corn starch dissolves into the liquid. Pour it into the saucepan, turn the heat to medium high and start stirring. Add a drop or 2 of worcestershire sauce. When it boils and thickens, turn the heat down to low and  cover it. If you want the gravy a little thicker, mix another T. of corn starch with 2 T. of water and add it to the gravy. Let it bubble gently for about 5 minutes and then serve it along with the roast and veggies. Serves 4 amply. We like it with fresh green beans but you could make a salad or heat up some bread)
Pot Roast with Potatoes, Onions and Carrots
If you've got any meat, gravy and vegetables leftover, try this:

Leftover Beef Stew
Leftover pot roast and gravy (you need at least 1 c. beef and 1/2 c. gravy)
+ any vegetables you have leftover, all cut into bite sized pieces
3 1/2 c. beef stock or 1 can Campbells beef consomme' plus 2 1/2  c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. thinly sliced carrot
1 clove minced garlic
3 medium all purpose potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice
8 frozen "pearl onions" from a bag 
1/2 c. dry red wine**
1 T. tomato paste
kosher salt and coarse pepper
1 slice crisp cooked bacon, optional

Place the beef stock or consomme' along with the chopped onion, carrots, garlic and potatoes, into a heavy medium to larger sized sauce pan -- not your huge one, but not the one you heat up soup in either. (Add water until the vegetables are covered by 1" of water, if necessary.) Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn the stove on high and bring to a boil. Turn down and let it simmer 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. When the vegetables are tender, add 1/2 c. dry red wine tomato paste and the pearl onions, and bring it back up to a boil. Let that cook about 5 minutes and add your pot roast, gravy and any veggies that were leftover. I like to cook this 30+ minutes over a low heat so that the stew really comes together. Add the bacon for the last few minutes of cooking, if using. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you need it. 

**You can always substitute beef stock/broth for the wine in either of these recipes.

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