Monday, November 26, 2007

Just Like Grandma Used to Make

It's Monday night again. And again the dilemma of what to make for dinner that would be ready between getting off work and Spin class. Again the idea of the crock pot comes to mind. Somewhat bolstered by last Monday's attempt, I decided to give it another shot.

According to The Joy of Cooking, a general rule of thumb is "estimate 2 hours on low or 1 hour on high in a slow cooker for every 30 minutes of cooking time in the original recipe." SO, not finding any really interesting recipes that didn't contain a can of cream of mushroom soup (the stuff is fairly unnatural) or a lot of sour cream, I tried to think of recipes that have long cooking times. I tried to think of foods that were cooked to death.

As an aside, the Brain has requested a reprieve from soup. So although I love soup and I'm fairly sure that chili would work in the slow cooker, I won't be making soup until January.

The number one food cooked to death in my mind is Pot Roast.

Now my mother cooked Pot Roast to death, but she sort of mummified it. Don't get me wrong, my mother can make all sorts of yummy and delicious things. She makes a Rice Bavarian that us kids fight over. Her fruitcake is eaten straight from the freezer. For birthdays, when we could choose what we wanted for dinner, 5 times a year she would roll out ravioli from scratch. My brother #3's birthday is 2 days before mine so she wouldn't make ravioli twice in two days. In the '70s she would throw elaborate dinner parties, serving Fondue, Chinese Food, and Chicken Cordon Blue. But my mother cannot cook Pot Roast. She sort of fried it for a couple hours and then used the electric carving knife to cut it into chunks. The potatoes and carrots were delicious and caramelized, but us kids nicknamed the Pot Roast "Hockey Puck Pot Roast".

It wasn't until after I'd moved out and after my dad's mom died that I realized that the delicious meat chunks floating in gravy that Grandma cooked were also Pot Roast. My Grandma was a terrific woman. She spoke with a New England accent so that when we'd be at her cottage on Lake Huron she's say things like, "the lake is cahm today." Grandma had infinite patience with me, she kept a vat of Noxzema to cover my sunburns, she brilliantly answered every question I ever had, and she really wasn't the best cook. [She could definitely bake chocolate chip cookies, but I'll save that story for another day.] She overcooked most of her vegetables and sometimes mixed them with mashed potatoes. She stuffed her turkey with ground beef. But, somehow, cooking the living daylights out of Pot Roast really worked. So I followed her example.

This morning I put the Pot Roast in the crock pot, set the timer for 8 hours, and hoped. It fell apart. There was too much gravy. It was EXACTLY like Grandma's! Well, Grandma used a packet and a half of French Onion Soup mix, but that's just a little too icky for me. I'm not a huge fan of processed food. So I shredded the meat and made half the cooking liquid into gravy, mixed it together and went off to spin. I got home and made some mashed potatoes as the Brain walked in and for once, the slow cooker worked it's magic for us.

Now I just need to think of another food that's cooked to death for next week...

Pot Roast
original recipe by Me (inspired by Grandma, Elizabeth Flint Uicker)

1 tsp olive oil
1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 large onion sliced
1 cup red wine
4 garlic cloves minced
4 cups beef broth*
1 bay leaf
2 tsp flour
1 cup water

Drizzle olive oil in large skillet. Sprinkle chuck roast with salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Place chuck roast in crock pot. Place sliced onions and minced garlic on top of roast. Pour in wine and broth. Add bay leaf. Cook on low for 8 hours. Pull roast apart. Pour cooking liquids into saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce by half. Mix water and flour in small bowl and add to cooking juices to make gravy. Add roast to gravy and serve over mashed potatoes.

* Next time I would definitely reduce this to 2 cups.

1 comment:

Zylo said...

I grew up with the onion soup mix in ours. I've experimented on my own with all kinds of things- coke being the weirdest. They're all good. Anything with soupy beef works well in a crock. Have you thought about beef stroganoff?