Ah . . . what’s that wonderful scent that meets you at the door when you come in from a hard day at work? Could it possibly be a complete dinner, welcoming you home? That may seem like a fantasy in this day of busy schedules and dual-career families, but it can become a reality when you use a slow cooker. Many of your favorite meals can be adapted to cook while you’re away from home. For example, a pot roast with vegetables is ideal for slow cooking.
Beef Pot Roast
1 chuck roast, about 2 pounds
3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 carrots, chopped
3 small onions, cut into wedges
3/4 cup beef broth or water
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1 head of cauliflower, divided (optional)
Spray the ceramic crock with a nonstick cooking spray. This will make cleaning the crock easy.
Layer the vegetables on the bottom of the ceramic crock. Always put dense vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the pot. They take longer to cook than meat does, and putting them in the hottest spot compensates for this. Tender vegetables (like peas) or vegetables that could flavor the entire meal (like broccoli) should be added in the last half hour of cooking time.
This recipe calls for a chuck roast. Tougher cuts of meat are the best choice for slow cooking. Long cooking at low temperatures makes them tender and delicious, but tender cuts cooked that way will disintegrate.
Trim the fat from the roast. Brown it in a skillet on the stovetop before putting it in the slow cooker. The roast will cook completely without browning, but searing the meat improves its appearance and intensifies its flavor. Deglaze the skillet. Add a few tablespoons of liquid to the pan, heat it to boiling, and swirl it around while scraping the tiny cooked bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meat in the slow cooker. This also improves the flavor of the meal.
In a small bowl, combine the broth, Worcester sauce, and basil. Pour it over the meat and vegetables. Some moisture is necessary for slow cooking, but usually one cup of water or broth is plenty. If the food already has a high water content, add less liquid.
Dried herbs and spices, especially ones like dried garlic that have a strong flavor, can become overpowering with slow cooking. Reduce the amount used in the recipe. About an hour before serving, taste for seasoning and adjust the spices if needed. If you’re using fresh herbs, add them during the last 1/2 hour of cooking time. Fresh herbs often disintegrate and lose flavor with long cooking times.
Cover the cooker and cook on high for one hour, then on low for nine to eleven hours. (Or, cook on high for five to six hours – one hour at high heat is about the same as 2 hours at low.) In general, a recipe that takes about 40 minutes to cook on the stovetop or in the oven will take 9 or 10 hours in the slow cooker set on low. Use an instant-read food thermometer to test the roast for doneness. Beef, pork, lamb, and game are fully done when the internal temperature of the meat is 170Ã?Âº F.
1/4 cup cold water
about 1/4 cup cornstarch
Remove the meat and vegetables from the crock and keep them warm. Defat the cooking juices using a turkey baster or a special degreaser cup. You can prepare the gravy on the stovetop, using your usual method, but you can make it right in the crock if you want to. Turn the slow cooker to high, and let the juices come to a boil. Make a smooth paste of cornstarch and water. Pour it slowly into the hot cooking juices and stir well. Then let it cook fifteen to thirty minutes, until the gravy has thickened.
Make a tossed salad if you want one. There it is – a full roast beef dinner, ready to eat just minutes after you get home. Enjoy!