Thursday, June 15, 2006

Italian Pot Roast

I love pot roast. A lot. In fact, it was the very first meal that I ever cooked. It was the summer that I was turning 10 years old, and we had a full house at the Inn, but my mother was sick in bed. That was the first summer that her mother, my grandmother didn't live at the Inn and help run it by cooking the evening meal. We had hungry guests and no one to cook dinner, so my mother told me that she'd lie in a cot in the back room near the kitchen and tell me what to do. I was scared out of my mind, but I followed her instructions carefully and we ended up with a giant pot roast with boiled vegetables, salad, and apple pies with ice cream for 30 paying customers. Not too shabby for a kid, eh? As I recall, the guests ate it all up and we ended up with hot dogs - mercifully cooked by the waitresses and my father. I was a wreck, but very proud, as was my mother - she was proud of everything I did. And I've loved pot roast ever since.

I usually make pot roast with kind of frenchified seasonings and lots of wine, but this time I decided to do it differently. I was surfing online and found this recipe by someone named PanNan, and I changed it a little and adapted it to the crock pot. I've made pot roasts on the stove and I've baked them in the oven, but nothing can compare with the way they melt in your mouth after cooking in the crock pot all day. I decided to make this on Saturday, just for dd and me, but ended up having Jan and Ken and their daughter over for dinner. They liked it too!

Italian Pot Roast
3 1/2 lb boneless chuck roast
salt and pepper
Olive oil spray
1 onion, chopped medium fine
1 small carrot, chopped medium fine
1 small celery rib, chopped medium fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 tsp sugar
1 C beef broth
1/2 C dry wine, red or white
16 oz canned tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
1/2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 sprig fresh
6 oz canned tomato paste

Pat roast dry with paper towels, sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat large fry pan over medium heat, spray with olive oil and brown roast on all sides. Don't let it begin to smoke - keep the heat at medium. When thoroughly browned, transfer roast to crock pot. Add onion, celery and carrot to fry pan and saute; add garlic, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and a little oil if necessary, and saute a few minutes until mushrooms begin to give up their juice. Add tomato paste and sugar and saute well, until the paste begins to change color. Add in the wine, then the broth, then the tomatoes, and still until well mixed and the alcohol has evaporated. Pour this all over the roast in the crock pot, cover tightly and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours, or medium for 4 - 6 hours. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with wide noodles.

Five stars!

A note about crock pots: I own several crock pots, a 1 quart Crockette from 1971, a 3 1/2 quart oval which I got last year, an 18 quart Nesco oven, and a 5 quart rectangular metal Westinghouse which sits on its own burner base which is about 12 years old. I always reach for the rectangular one first, and is the second of that type which I've owned. I actually wore out the first one after about 17 years. What is so wonderful about this type is that the crock part, being a simple rectangular metal pot with a nonstick interior, can be used on top of the stove, so all the sauteing and browning can be done in the crockpot instead of a fry pan, which is exactly what I did. I also like the rectangular shape which is perfect for dry crock roasting a whole chicken. If you ever see one of these - buy it right away! You will not be sorry you did.

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