I think I’ve discussed with y’all before that I don’t find myself cooking with meat very often. Part of this is because I simply don’t feel the need to have meat with every meal – I can subsist quite contentedly on other sources of protein 75% of the time. Another part of this is money – it’s a no-brainer that beans are far cheaper than steak or even chicken. When I do buy meat, it is when it is on sale and I stock up with as much as I feel my tiny little freezer can handle.
One of the things that Tamar Adler talks about in her book An Everlasting Meal is the cost effectiveness of tougher cuts of meat. These cuts of meat – roasts, rumps, shanks, ribs, and poultry legs and thighs – have their fat marbled throughout them (instead of sitting on the surface) and cook slowly, which present you with a number of advantages:
- They are forgiving when you cook them and do not dry out easily like lean cuts such as tenderloins or chicken breasts.
- Slowly cooking tough cuts of meat leaves you with drippings that can be turned into a sauce, gravy or soup (which, if needed, can become another meal entirely).
- Slow cooking methods give you the chance to impart a lot of flavor to your meat.
I don’t think it is any secret that I love my slow cooker. And while I love making all sorts of dishes in it – soups, chilis, even chicken and noodles or lasagna – I really love using it to make pot roast. Without a slow cooker, pot roast becomes a weekend-only meal, since it is one that requires you to be home in the middle of the afternoon to cook. With a slow cooker, I get a pot roast started before I leave for work, and when I get home, all of the grunt work is done, leaving me with tender, flavorful meat and a rich sauce to turn into gravy or pour directly over potatoes or rice.
(As a side note, making a meal like pot roast allows me to feed my meat-and-potato-lovin’ boyfriend meals like ugly tortilla española for several days after with less guilt, even though the man’s a saint and happily eats anything I make him without complaint.)
This pot roast spends the day lounging in the slow cooker with some carrots, onions, and balsamic vinegar. It ends up tender and tangy and leaves you with a great sauce that you can simply reduce or turn into a gravy.
As a further side note, just a little bit of leftover meat and onions can be turned into a delicious toasted sandwich. I know – it was my lunch. Waste not, want not.
- 3-4 pound boneless chuck roast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup beef stock/broth
- 2-3 medium sweet onions, peeled and cut into thick slices
- 1-2 cups carrots (I used very fat baby carrots, but if you can only find very small/skinny baby carrots, I would suggest peeling and cutting regular carrots into large pieces. The larger pieces or fatter carrots will help prevent your carrots from overcooking.)
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- In a saucepan, bring the beef stock to a simmer; allow to simmer until it has reduced to ½ cup. Set aside.
- Place onions and carrots in the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Trim as much fat as possible from the roast and trim it as necessary to fit in the slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, cayenne and thyme. Rub each side of the roast well with the seasoning mixture. Meanwhile, heat a heavy pan with a tablespoon of oil over high heat. Brown the roast well on both sides. When thoroughly browned, remove from the pan and place in the slow cooker on top of the vegetables.
- Pour the ¼ cup of water into the pan to deglaze it. Add this to the beef broth, along with the balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce. Pour mixture over the beef and vegetables in the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.
- Remove the meat and vegetables from the slow cooker and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour the liquid into a saucepan (if desired, use a fat separator to remove some of the fat before doing so); bring to a simmer and reduce by ⅓. Serve the sauce with meat and vegetables.
- If desired, you can thicken the sauce with a slurry of cornstarch and water to make a gravy.