Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crock Pot Beef Roast

We love roast at our house!  Chuck, bottom, rump, shoulder, pot.  Yum yum.  There are as many ways to prepare this as your creativity can conjure.  Take a break from the traditional roast-potatoes-carrots routine and try something new.

Why the crock pot?  Well, for one thing it's simple.  Plop in the roast and the seasonings and the extras, turn it on, and walk away.  Leave the house, go to work, shop, take a nap.  You might have to come back later and add something for the last couple of hours, but for the most part, the pot does the work.  Another fine reason is skipping the oven thing.  It heats up the house, takes more energy, and you (at least I do) find yourself checking it more often.  To me, the prime reason is flavor.  The very nature of the crock pot is flavor-locking, self-basting, low-and-slow cooking.  It allows the seasons to get deep into the meat, and the flavors meld into savory perfection.

Then there's the whole cheap factor.  Yep, I said cheap.  Who said gourmet and tasty must always cost more?  Roasts are often the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy, but they are full of the most flavor and offer the most flexibility in cooking.  Watch for sales at the grocery store.  And don't limit yourself to beef - think pork, lamb and venison  from time to time.

Please do not get rid of the pot liquid!  Please!  Strain it if you want to, put it in the fridge, let the fat rise to the top, skim it off, and then use the liquid for the base of a beef soup the next day with the leftover meat and veggies.  Or strain most of the fat, then bring it to a simmer in a pot on the stove, stir in a 'slurry' of flour and water, and let it thicken into a nice gravy.

DO NOT ADD LIQUID TO YOUR POT ROAST.  The roast will release plenty of liquid, in addition to the moisture from any vegetables or aromatics.  Sometimes an oven pot roast will cook dry and require liquid, but the crock pot method needs no such assistance.


Traditional Pot Roast
One beef roast, chuck or what you prefer
Salt and pepper
One large onion, sliced
Prepared horseradish
Fresh sage leaves (optional)
*Potatoes and carrots, plus celery if you like

Trim the beef if you think it needs it, but remember fat equals both moisture and flavor.  Salt and pepper both sides of the beef well.  Lay the sliced onion in the bottom of the crock pot, lay the roast on top of it.  Slather the top of the roast with the prepared horseradish, and lay a few fresh sage leaves on top of that.  If the roast is frozen (yep!  perfectly fine!), cook it on low 6-8 hours.  If the roast is thawed, low 4-6 hours should suffice.  *Add the potatoes, carrots and celery for the last 2 hours.  This is a good time to turn the roast over, and baste the veggies with the broth. 

*  Our preference is for oven roasted vegetables.  For some reason, they taste better to us than the ones cooked in with the roast.  Try them oven roasted one time, just for kicks.  Then you can go back to the pot-way later.  Chunk the potatoes and carrots and celery, toss with olive oil and seasoned salt, some pepper, too.  Roast on a baking sheet in the oven at 375, tossing them around once, for about 45 minutes to an hour.


Chipotle Roast Beef
One beef roast
Salt and pepper
Several garlic cloves
One sliced onion
One dried chipotle pepper (or two!)
Cumin, chili powder, coriander, oregano
Juice of one lime

Lay down the bed of onion, and slice the garlic to add to that bed.  Season the roast with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, coriander, oregano and lime juice.  Place on onion bed.  Drop the dried chipotle pepper into the pot, next to the roast, not on top of it.  Cook as above time indicates.  Turn it half way through, move the chipotle pepper around.

We love to shred this beef up and serve it in tortillas with lots of toppings, but it is equally good as a roast on a platter, served on top of polenta, or next to corn bread.  If you like spicy, chop up the chipotle, mash it into the pot liquid along with the onions and garlic, and serve all that juice on top of the roast.  Either way, save the leftover meat and do tortillas, nachos or enchiladas another day.


Italian Beef Roast
One beef roast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper
One sliced onion
Several cloves of garlic, sliced
Dried oregano and basil
2 teaspoons fennel seed
Red, green and yellow bell pepper (or only one color if you prefer), sliced

Slather the tomato paste on the beef.  Season with salt and pepper.  Lay down the bed of onion and garlic in the pot, place the beef on top.  Sprinkle with oregano, basil and fennel seed.  2 hours before the roast is done, turn it over, and add the sliced peppers to the pot.  Baste them with the liquid.

This is great served over polenta, either creamy or wedges.  It would also be good with gnocchi, or another thick and hearty pasta.  Garlic mashed potatoes wouldn't be half bad, either.  Use a large, shallow serving bowl, a pretty one if you have it!  Put the preferred starch in the bottom, then set the roast on top, surround it with the vegetables, and pour the pot liquid over it all.  Who cares about the fat on this one, it's going to taste so good!


Garlic Mushroom Beef
(this is what we're having tonight)
One beef roast
Salt and pepper
One sliced onion
Several cloves of garlic, halved
Sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 - 1 pound of mushrooms (baby bellas, a.k.a. crimini mushrooms, are great!), quartered

Cut several slits into the roast, and push a hunk of garlic into each.  Salt and pepper the roast well.  Lay the onions in the pot, lay the roast on top.  Lay the sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top of the roast.  3 hours before the roast is done, turn it over, and add the quartered mushrooms to the pot.  Baste with the liquid.

I serve this on a big platter with the mushrooms around it.  Tonight we'll have rosemary focaccia bread with it, and a salad.  I used a lot of mushrooms, so tomorrow I'll take the liquid (skimmed of fat), add it to some beef broth, plop in the leftover pieces of beef, mushrooms and onions, and simmer it into a soup.  At the end I'll add some quick cooking barley or some pre-cooked brown rice.  Knowing me, there'll be some dry white vermouth, or light red wine added to the soup while it is simmering.  I might throw in a handful or two of diced carrots.


BEEF - it's what's for dinner at my house :)

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