When Life Gets Busy, Make Pot Roast

When I find myself very busy, I turn to my slow cooker for help making dinner happen. Whether it's a delicious soup or a stew brimming with dumplings, I know we'll have the chance to enjoy comfort food at its best. And one of my very favorite ways to do that is by making pot roast. Traditionally an involved dish that Grandma used to make for Sunday dinner, many of us have come to associate pot roast with special occasions or, worse yet, so much prep time that it simply falls out of dinner rotation altogether. But that's just not the case at my home. If it's pot roast night, it means I probably seared a giant chunk of meat the night before and nestled a bunch of great ingredients around it before letting it sleep in the refrigerator. Then, in the morning, I added a few other ingredients and set it in the slow cooker's warming sleeve and promptly went about my busy day until it was time for dinner. It's really that simple.

Many cooks insist that making pot roast requires a boneless chuck roast. While that's a lovely cut of meat and the one I tend to favor, too, I don't much mind if there are bones in my roast and that can often save me quite a bit at the market. Why isn't it a big deal? Well, while Grandma's pot roast might have been chewy and needed slicing with a sharp knife, my version is fall-off-the-bone tender and any bones present in the roast can simply be slipped out of the pot before serving. I don't need to slice the meat because it's simplest to just pull tender chunks of it out of the seasoned gravy and nestle it on your plate alongside the tender vegetables. So yeah, don't fuss about a boneless roast. Save those more expensive options for making roast beef another time. As for the choices in vegetables, my belief is that the garlic and onions are necessary, but the additional mix of vegetables is really up to you. I enjoyed using a blend of my favorite root vegetables, but choose your own blend.

When it's time to eat, this dish really shines. Simply remove any bones and excess fat, give what remains in the pot a gentle swirl to coat it with the seasoned gravy that your slow cooker's whipped up for you, and get out your plates. I usually have a loaf of crusty bread to enjoy alongside, as well as a glass or two of the red wine that made it into the pot earlier. You do cook with wine you would also drink, right? Good. That's about where I'd call it dinner. Enjoy!

Balsamic Pot Roast

  • 3-4 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • Your favorite chili powder or seasoned salt
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • 1 1/2 c. peeled, chopped sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. peeled, chopped turnips
  • 2 T. instant tapioca

To get the nicest texture for your pot roast, rub it generously with your favorite chili powder or seasoned salt and sear it in a pan over medium-high heat in the olive oil before placing it in the stoneware pot that comes with your slow cooker. Add the fresh herbs, sliced onion, chopped garlic, and balsamic vinegar to the top of the roast. If you have the time, do this the night before and store in the refrigerator overnight to save on prep time in the morning and to allow the meat to rest and absorb some of the great flavors of the vinegar, onions, garlic, and herbs.

In the morning, add the red wine and beef broth. Add the remaining vegetables and sprinkle the very top of the roast and vegetables with the instant tapioca. Cover the pot, place it in the warming sleeve, and turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 6-8 hours. Prior to serving, remove any bones and excess fat from the meat and stir the dish gently to coat everything with the flavorful gravy your slow cooker has made. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus chilling time and simmering time

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