This month is crazy busy in our house. All of the school teams, clubs and performing groups are cramming everything into March and early April to avoid Spring Break and preparing for finals. We only have two children yet we have Science O practices and regional, school orchestra and youth orchestra program, music lessons and dance lessons. There are parades for St. Patrick’s Day, fund-raisers and dancing in schools and nursing homes for my daughter. The town library programs and a bake sale. All that is just what I can remember off the top of my head! I know I missed several things like State Testing. I can’t imagine families that have 3, 4 or 6 kids they are managing during this time.
I need to be prepared or we will be eating out far too much. I am going to be relying on skillet dinners and my slow cooker quite a bit this month.
I have a little love affair going with my slow cooker. I am not ashamed to profess my love of it anywhere and everywhere. But, I have talked to several people who do not like the flavor and texture of food made in the slow cooker.
There are several things you can do to fix that. Though it does require a bit of extra preparation work in the beginning and some extra time at the end you may be able to find a happy medium with your slow cooker.
- Try searing the meat before you put it in the slow cooker. In a skillet with butter or oil on medium-high heat place the meat for just a minute or two on each side to brown it. This will help the meat stay together better and possibly not completely shred.
- Low the cooking time. Yes, slow cookers are great because you can leave a meal cooking for a long period of time but the downside is that everything continues to cook. If you have a programmable slow cooker change the program from low to keep warm after the recommended cooking time or don’t start your slow cooker until later in the day, (maybe a quick run home at lunch time), if you know you can’t get it until 1-3 hours after the recommended cooking time.
- The spices you add at the beginning of the recipe to the slow cooker will enhance the flavor of the dish but you will need to freshen the spices at the end. Half an hour before you are ready to serve your dish remove a small taste and let it cool for a few minutes. Then taste the dish and adjust the spices according to what you taste at that time. The extra 30 minutes will allow the spices to blend throughout the dish.
- If you cook vegetables in the slow cooker for 7-10 hours they are going to break down. Even if you place them on top they will be very soft. If you want your vegetables a bit crisper place them in the slow cooker half way through cooking – on top of the meat or cook them separately. Steaming them or roasting them in the last hour of your slow cooker cooking time will allow you to control the texture better.
So, there are ways to “fix” some of the things that some people don’t like about slow cooker recipes but I am fine with most of the issues as I do usually sear the meat now and taste for balance of flavors.
This beef roast we made over the weekend was easy and because it was the weekend I was able to add the vegetables in part way through the cooking process.
- 1 chuck roast (mine was 4 pounds)
- Olive oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons Montreal Steak seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- Mix the Montreal Steak seasoning and rosemary in a small bowl.
- Rub the roast with olive oil and then the steak seasoning.
- Sear both sides of the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the roast in the slow cooker.
- Place the vegetables on top of the meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you wish you may add the vegetables after 2 hours on low or 1 hour on high so that they don’t cook as much.
- Pour the beef broth over the vegetables.
- Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 6 hours.
- Remove most of the cooking juices from the slow cooker. Transfer juices to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk together the cornstarch with a little cold water. Blend into the pan juices while whisking. Bring back to a simmer until thickened. Taste and adjust spices as needed.
- Place roast on a platter and cover with gravy as desired to serve.