There are some classic American foods that I revere: cheeseburgers, pizza, fried chicken – and pot roast. They’re found in restaurants everywhere, but it’s less easy to find the most delicious version of these classics. That’s why when I make something as basic as a pot roast, I want to lavish the freshest ingredients and the most thoughtful preparation on it to make it the best pot roast ever. If you’re going to enjoy a classic, shouldn’t it be worthy of its iconic status?
This is a happy surprise of a meal to come home to, especially at the end of a hectic first week of school. I used the crockpot, or as it’s more fashionably known today, the slow cooker. It really is one of the most useful items in the kitchen, especially if you’re committed to doing your own cooking but don’t have hours to loll around in the kitchen every day. There are two tricks to cooking in a slow cooker: first, patience: let the meat cook long enough to become truly tender – if it’s not falling off the bone, it hasn’t cooked long enough. And, secondly, be prepared to add more delicate ingredients at the very end so you’re not faced with a pot of mush at the end of the day. Peas and mushrooms can be added two minutes before you serve the pot roast, and they will look plump, colorful, and appealing.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Prep time: 30 minutes to assemble, plus 6 hours in the slow cooker
- One three to four-pound chuck roast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus one tablespoon to sauté vegetables
- 1 leek, washed and cut into small pieces
- 2 celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 5 carrots – four cut into large chunks and one cut into small cubes
- 1 pound golden nugget or fingerling potatoes, unpeeled
- 10 pearl onions
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup beef broth
- Bouquet garni, made of three sprigs each of rosemary and thyme and 5 sprigs of parsley (tie herbs into a piece of cheesecloth)
- Sprigs of fresh herbs for garnish
For the seasoning:
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground peppercorn
Mix together all seasoning ingredients. Sprinkle half of the seasoning mix on to the meat.
- Sear both sides of meat in a heavy skillet with two tablespoons of oil, until golden brown.
- Transfer meat to slow cooker. In the same skillet, sauté garlic, cubed carrots, leeks and celery until vegetables are slightly browned. Add vegetables to meat in cooker.
- Add beef broth and bouquet garni to cooker and turn on high.
- In same heavy skillet, add tablespoon of oil and sauté larger chunks of carrots, potatoes and parsnips for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the seasoning mix to the vegetables.
- After meat has been cooking for an hour, transfer larger vegetables to the top of the roast. Cover with lid and cook for 6-7 hours until roast is very tender.
- Add peas and mushrooms a few minutes before serving, stirring them into the mixture until they are heated through. Remove bouquet garni and discard.
- To serve, transfer roast and vegetables to a platter. If you like a thick gravy, add cornstarch to the juices in the bottom of the cooker and stir until all lumps are gone. Pour gravy over meat, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve.