Monday, May 13, 2013

Slow-Cooked Pot Roast

For Mother's Day, my mother-in-law wanted "the kids" to cook for her. Since our time was limited, I decided to bring out the slow-cooker and make a pot roast. Read on for the recipe and my tips.

Slow-cooker vs. Crock Pot?
Crock Pot is to slow-cooker as Kleenex is to tissue. Slow-cooker is the name of the tool. Crock Pot is a popular brand. 

My slow cooker is relatively new. This is only my third time using it. I bought mine from Costco. It is by Hamilton Beach for $50+. 

One of the features that I like most is that you can pull out the "pot" and cook with it on the stove top. It's especially good for searing meat. Less dishes = happy cook.  

What a Crock!

I'm a slow-cooker newbie, but so far I haven't been enthused by the food produced from it. Texture and convenience is great. But, I feel that the flavors are not as exciting. 

Recipe and Tips

I found a recipe for a classic pot roast on the Whole Foods website. Pot roast is hearty and inexpensive to make. 

I had to increase the portions, so I upped the meat portion and added more vegetables. But, you cannot necessarily double the rest of the ingredients; rules of slow-cooker cooking are different. 

Here is how I adjusted the recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour Doubled to 4tbsp
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme Doubled to 2tsp (4-6 sprigs). I used fresh thyme from my herb garden. Read below on my technique to dry it. 
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat I used 2lb.
  • 3 tablespoons canola or extra virgin olive oil 
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 5 large carrots
  • 2 Russet potatoes*, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 8-10 small Yukon Gold, with skin (I have them on hand and they are more moist)
  • 2 small onions, cut into wedges 2.5 large brown onions 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 finely chopped 
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth 3 cups
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste 9oz (1.5 cans)
Cooking Time
Cover and cook until 8 to 10 hours on low, or 4 to 5 on high. I cooked for 6 hours on low, adjusted to high for last hour (since it wasn't going to be done in time because I started late). 

When it was finished, my husband slicked the meat and placed it back into the pot to stay in the liquid.

The Verdict

Sadly, the overall taste was very bland. The liquid was soupy rather than thick like a gravy. At least the meat had an acceptable tenderness. My in-law's seemed to like it. 

My Recommended Adjustments

  • Season the meat very well before searing. I thought I sprinkled enough salt and pepper, but it didn't affect the final product. In the future, I will season red meat generously (like how I would when I grill it). 
  • Season meat directly instead of putting it into dredging mixture. 
  • Switch to regular beef broth instead of reduced sodium, and/or
  • Season the vegetables with salt and pepper
  • Add other herbs - dry or fresh
  • Add more broth to account for additional vegetables, but only slightly more (2.5 cups)
  • Use less tomato paste. I think I could've gotten away with 6-8oz.

How to Dry Herbs

There are more traditional methods of drying fresh herbs, but I really like this microwave technique. I rinsed my thyme and I didn't allow it to fully dry before I nuked it. So, the leaves were not evenly dried. But, I was OK with using semi-dry herbs. 

Do you have any favorite protein crock pot recipes? If so, please share. 

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