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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Love-Me-Tender Pot Roast

Consider the humble pot roast - as unassuming a slab of beef as you could possibly imagine. Beef has fallen out of favor, these days, as have pot roasts. No wonder: Pot roasts lack sex appeal. They’re tough. Tenderizing them takes time … plenty of time. Nonetheless, as I pondered the choices in my local supermarket’s meat counter one morning this week, I felt an atavistic stirring that only carné could satisfy. The last time I felt that way, I gave birth to three babies in 11 months. True story.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a hankering for beef. Other than the occasional burger or meatball, I probably haven’t eaten it for a year. There’s been no special reason for that … I’ve just made different choices, such as chicken, fish, lamb, pork, or high-fiber, low-fat meat alternatives such as beans and tofu. I like beef. But as can happen with any old friend, we’d lost touch. Beef is one small component of a healthy diet. I’d just sort of forgotten about it.
So there I stood at the meat counter - a small, well-trimmed steak in one hand, a hulking blade roast in the other. Although the roast easily weighed five times more than the steak, each cost just over $10. Which to choose? No contest! I picked the pot roast. So here it is, in all its glory:

Gorgeous, wot? When I was single, I dated men a whole lot less handsome than thatThe question was, what to do with it? Unless I’m making Hungarian Goulash or Irish Stew or Boeuf Bourguignon (Julia Child’s recipe is superb), I have no actual “recipe” for cooking tough cuts of meat. In the days before slow cookers made their mark (see my blog of June 3, 2011), I cooked pot roast on the stove. But life is too hectic for that, with hikes to be taken and books to be read and all kinds of other stuff to do. So let's call this set-it-and-forget-it non recipe Love-Me-Tender Pot Roast. 

What I did was heat some oil in a high-sided pot, so it wouldn’t sizzle and splash over the stove-top and make a big mess. I cranked the heat pretty high and dumped the roast in, allowing it to sear on all sides to lock in the juices and flavor. Removing it from the pot, I seasoned it with garlic salt and plenty of coarsely ground pepper. Seasoning meat after (rather than before) searing prevents it from toughening up (yeah, right … I know you’re thinking that pot roast is already tougher than an army sergeant. Hang on, Dollinks! The way I cook it, it’s fall-off-the-bone-fork-tender).
Transferring the roast to my slow cooker, I added a couple of bay leaves, 2 tbsp. of water, and 2 tbsp. of HP Sauce (A-1 Sauce, if you prefer). Over the meat went two quartered russet potatoes, a large onion cut into chunks, and a few chunked carrots. I covered the slow cooker, set it to “high,” and hiked up a local mountain with Ron. Returning four hours later, I set the slow cooker to “low.” Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

In the final 30 minutes of its six-hour cooking time, I added a handful of sliced mushrooms to the pot. When the rising scent of meat and vegetables drove us crazy with desire (sorry to disappoint you, Dollinks, but this blog is not xxx-rated), I poured off the juices to make gravy while Ron carved the meat. We fell on it like animals! Carné! Carné! Carné! GRRRRR! The meat was so tender I didn’t dare glance at it sideways, fearing it would burst into tears. Simply put, it was scrumptious. The next time you visit the meat counter, think about the humble, unsexy, inexpensive pot roast. It’s always a treat to have dinner with an old friend.

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