The Reluctant Cook: Two foods, two ways

Part of an occasional series about cooking even though I don’t enjoy it…

Okay, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I wrote this post months ago and then forgot to post it. I didn’t want to leave you hanging, so here you go.

Every year, after the dog days of summer I’m almost desperate for fall to get here. As the days get cooler, I start hankering for comfort foods. I love stews and soups and I definitely adore pot roast and mashed potatoes. Even better, is cottage pie, which is a lovely combination of of the two.

I didn’t grow up eating pot roast that has been cooked in either a Dutch oven or a slow cooker. I don’t recall my mother making pot roast at all (a fact that she will probably refute via text or email later today) but my stepmother would make it in her pressure cooker and we’d all clean our plates in appreciation.

Some years ago, I learned to make a basic pot roast and it’s something that I know everyone in my house will eat willingly. Here’s the basic recipe, both in a Dutch oven and also in a slow cooker:

  • Oven version: Put your pot (I use one of  these) on the stove top and sear the roast on all sides (or, be lazy and don’t, it’s up to you).  Add 2-3 cups of beef broth*, plus any other herbs and spices you like. Stick it all in an oven heated to 350F and walk away for a few hours until the meat is tender and falling apart at the molecular level.
  • Slow cooker version: Put the meat, the broth, and the herbs and spices in the slow cooker, turn it on and then walk away. If you only have a few hours until you want to eat, cook on High; if you have all day, cook on Low.

I personally like to toss in whole mushrooms about a half hour before we eat so that they cook in the broth, but my children think that is a vile practice that should be halted immediately.

* Regarding broth, I think buying it is a waste of money. There are plenty of ways to make it. You could save bones from a roast and then simmer them in water or you could go the shortcut route and just drop in a couple of cubes of bouillon, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, and maybe a little garlic. Even better, when you’re done with the pot roast, you have a pot full of broth than can be frozen and used in a later meal, such as beef stew.

You know what tastes excellent with pot roast? Mashed potatoes, of course. Duh.

  • Chop up a bunch of Yukon Gold potatoes — they have a lovely creamy buttery flavor that makes them superior to other potatoes in my not at all humble opinion. Don’t peel them because that’s a waste of perfectly good potato skins that taste yummy.
  • Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until soft (about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many you’re cooking and how small you cut them).
  • Drain the potatoes, drop in chunks of butter, add a splash of milk, and mash/beat until smooth-ish. Sour cream and/or garlic are also excellent additions to mashed potatoes. If you use a hand mixer, don’t over-beat, because the potatoes will get too smooth and slimy and sticky. A few lumps aren’t a problem. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you’re like me, you’ll make a roast that is far too large for one dinner and will have leftovers. Usually, I’ll just freeze the pot roast for future use. (Helloooooo Cornish pasties. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.) However, if I have, as usual, made too much mashed potatoes — because it’s better to have too much rather than too little — then I need to figure out what to do with all that leftover yummy goodness. In many cases, said leftovers will be eaten  the next day by the Jenworld Eater-in-chief during his lunch break; but that’s not always the case.

So what are you going to do with those leftovers? You’re going to make cottage pie! This is an excellent use of leftovers, which saves you money and time and keeps good food from going to waste.

If you’re not familiar with cottage and shepherd’s pie, read this Wikipedia entry for background information. If you want official, properly-measured recipes, click here, here, and here. But you really don’t need no stinkin’ recipe because this is one of those meals where you just use the knowledge in your head to get you from thought bubble to delicious meal.

In your slow cooker, drop in the leftover pot roast (cut or shredded into bite-sized bits), vegetables, and a couple of cups of water. If you have some beef broth or some beef gravy use that instead. For the vegetables, I use frozen peas plus raw carrots, cauliflower, and/or mushrooms, plus dried minced onions. Other than cutting everything to bite-size pieces, I don’t do anything; I don’t even defrost the frozen veggies first. Add flavorings as desired — for me, it’s usually a little garlic, a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce, a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, and salt. Cover the whole shebang with the leftover mashed potatoes. If you want to get fancy — and you do — grate some sharp Cheddar and sprinkle it on top of the taters. Put the lid on the crockpot and walk away for a couple of hours.

If you are going to make this in your oven, spray a large casserole dish, add the ingredients as instructed above, and bake at 350F for anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on how much you’re making and if you’re using a metal or ceramic baking dish.

And that’s it. Serve with some sort of green vegetable. Or not. It’s up to you if you get your RDA of green nutrients.

So tell me, who’s making pot roast this weekend?

Photo credit: Yahoo Images.


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11 Responses to The Reluctant Cook: Two foods, two ways

  1. Jenny says:

    Only one of Nature’s perfect foods. Now I have a plan for a meal this week. My husband thanks you.

  2. Well, I wasn’t planning to, but now I just might. Sounds perfect as the temps drop.

  3. Lori H says:

    I have never made pot roast before but you have inspired me. Oh, and mushrooms are vile. So I am with your kids on that one. :)

  4. alison says:

    You know what else is great to make from left-over pot roast and the broth or gravy that you made with it? Beef barley soup. Since I’m working at home today, I’m going to defrost some pot roast leftovers that I froze and add some water, pot barley, sliced carrots and frozen corn niblets and a bit of garlic and black pepper. Mmmmmm.

  5. Aunt Snow says:

    We made corned beef brisket with cabbage and potatoes the other day. I’m packing it in my lunch bag today.

  6. Jenn3128 says:

    I love pot roast. Growing up my mom served it every Sunday, she’d always put carrots & red potatoes in with the meat. That’s how I prefer mine, but the rest of the family prefers some mashed taters. When you’re feeling decadent, throw a block of cream cheese in with the mashed taters, magic happens!

    Anyone else find that the crock pot makes for a tougher pot roast? I’ve stopped using mine & only use my dutch oven.

  7. I made a big beef stew in my crockpot the other day. Tom had leftovers yesterday and I’ll probably finish it up for lunch today.

  8. I made one last weekend! It disappeared pretty quickly, too.

  9. Cassi Renee says:

    This sounds so yummy –especially after a diet of occasional oatmeal, plain yogurt, and bananas this week due to the stomach flu.

    I know you’ve mentioned that you get your meat at a butcher’s –is it organic or grass-fed? Or just better regular beef? I’m asking because I have so much trouble finding grass fed beef around here, and I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t buy meat. We do have a butcher’s but he doesn’t sell grass-fed or organic meat.

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