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A slow cooker is a busy person's most useful appliance, especially around the holidays. Many meals can be cooked while you are at work, while you are out and doing something fun with the family and friends or even while you get a good night’s rest.
Here are a few tips to remember as you begin using your slow cooker:
Season meats and vegetables well with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Use aromatic vegetables liberally. Carrots, onions, celery, and garlic will give soups and stews a good base flavor. The liquids you choose to braise with will also impart flavor, so pick rich stocks, wine and even brandy. Tomato paste and dried fruits will give a real boost to any dish. Searing the meat first is usually ideal. A browned outer crust on the roast will also make for a tastier finished sauce. Additionally, it is best to deglaze the pan in which the meat was seared; scraping up the browned, leftovers and adding these to the cooker makes for a nice extra touch of richness.
This recipe can be changed based on season and on what you have available. It is easy to prepare and the generous leftovers can be turned into a batch of chili or can also become a quick meat sauce for pasta. With this one dish, you can prepare three delicious homestyle dinners for the week.
3 medium onions, quartered, root intact
2 pounds carrots, 1-inch chunks
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cans whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Handful dried prunes
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together in a bundle
(2) 3 pound beef chuck roasts, tied together
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ cup brandy, optional
1. Place the onions, carrots, smashed garlic cloves, tomatoes, tomato paste, prunes and thyme into slow cooker liner.
2. Salt and pepper all sides of the tied roast well, then rub it all over with olive oil.
3. Heat a large skillet and sear the roast on all sides to form an outer browned crust.
4. Once seared all over, place the meat in slow cooker liner on top of vegetables. Place the liner into the metal housing of your slow cooker.
5. Mix together the wine, vegetable broth and brandy in a small bowl. Pour this into the saute pan set over medium heat and stir to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is deglazed, pour the liquid from the pan over all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover, set to low, and cook for about 10 hours, or until fork tender.
6. When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Set the roast on a cutting board, remove the string and tent the meat with foil to keep it warm.
7. Remove the bundle of thyme from the liquid in the slow cooker. Remove the carrots from the pot. Serve half and reserve the other half for a later use.
8. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and set this over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and allow the liquid to reduce by half. When reduced, remove the pan from the heat. After a couple of minutes, use a stick blender right in the saucepan and blend everything together to make the pot roast gravy.
9. Serve slices of the meat with the carrots and gravy. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
Recipe courtesy of chef and novelist Jane Ward, 2012.
Jane Ward is the author of HUNGER (Forge, 2001) and THE MOSAIC ARTIST (2011). Jane graduated from Simmons College with a degree in English Literature, the desire to write novels, and an aptitude fo