Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Roast (in the CrockPot!)

My roast all tucked in and ready to start roasting!

Writing and cooking from: Pittsburgh, PA

I made my first roast today. It was edible. I'm proud of myself.

One thing that's become abundantly clear from my cooking adventures this week is that even though I cook often and I've been living in my own space and cooking for myself full time for well over a year, I missed out on some of the basics. I made my first batch of mashed potatoes this weekend, too (but more on that in tomorrow's post). I can make stellar coq au vin and boeuf bourgignon, but before today I'd never made a simple roast.

I've watched my Mom make them. In the tradition of many mothers before her she would often cook a roast during the winter and feed us on the leftovers for several days. It's quite handy and part of why I made the roast today - it's finals here for us in the Chatham MFA in Creative Writing program. I actually probably shouldn't be taking the time to write this post since I can't add it to the new pages I need to generate this week...but it's completely different here we go anyway, at least I won't be cooking because I'll be eating roast beef! It's all an effort to get this week properly set up...

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, the roast. I have plenty of side dish things around for this week but I knew I needed something to serve with it so I decided I'd pick up a roast or a whole chicken or something. I figured I'd go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and get something there. There was only one flaw - I had a little too much fun Friday night and slept through the Saturday morning market. It happens right?

Luckily, there's Whole Foods. I found a bottom round roast on sale and it was labelled local.

I don't know exactly where it came from, but the sign above the meat case did promise that the beef labelled local is from the mid-Atlantic region. That's better than I can do at most supermarkets. The label also promised antibiotic and hormone-free meat from an animal raised on a vegetarian diet. Stuff like this makes carnivores like me happy.

While I don't  eat a lot of meat sometimes it just sounds good. My body asks for it and I give in. We can't all be vegetarians and there's nothing wrong with any diet you choose. In the winter, I'm especially fond of that meat and potatoes combination that hints of 1950s family dinners prepared by mothers like Donna Reed. My Mom made these dinners too, so it's got it's own nostalgia as well, although I made this roast quite different from the way Mom would've done it. There was no way mine would have come out the same as hers anyway so why try?

And now...the recipe:

Sunday Round Roast

2.5 - 3 pound bottom round roast
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup brewed coffee
 Plus 1 T butter and 1 T flour if you want to make gravy

Mix the garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub into the roast. Place roast in the bottom of your slow cooker. Pour coffee over all. Cook on high for 3-5 hours. Meat is done when tender and internal temperature is between 140 - 160 degrees Farenheit.

When the roast is done remove from the crock and let sit for at least 10 minutes to lock in all the juices. In the meantime, poor the drippings (all that leftover coffee and beef drippings into a small bowl to cool slightly). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat. When it has melted and started to bubble slightly mix in 1 tablespoon of flour to make a roux. Once the butter and flour are incorporated, add the drippings a little bit at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the gravy to thicken after each addition. This makes a thin but delicious gravy that could also be used as dip for a sandwich with leftover beef.  If you want a thicker gravy, make a double batch of the roux.

It's that simple! Serve it with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, rice, polenta, salad, winter squash...the options are endless. A word of warning though, it's very important to check on this and believe the thermometer rather than the time. The preliminary recipes I looked at for general cooking instructions in the slow cooker all insisted on 4 1/2 to 6 hours in the crockpot on high even for roast cooked to medium doneness. I should have taken the roast out when I looked at it, just out of curiosity not wanting to take it out, after 3 hours and the temperature was about 150. An hour later the temperature was about 180 and the meat was definitely well done. I'm a medium girl through and through so I'm a little bummed about that. The good news though is that it's moist anyway since I did it in the crockpot and the pan gravy was a wonderful addition.

My first roast. It's pinker in the picture than in life. *sigh* Next time, I will take it out earlier. It's still good though!

Where the ingredients are from:
Bottom round roast, Whole Foods, labelled local
Garlic, Penn's Corner CSA
Parsley, Penn's Corner CSA
salt, pepper, and flour, generic, not organic
coffee, Newman's Own Organic in conjunction with Green Mountain Coffee, Certified Fair Trade via Giant Eagle
butter, Horizon Organics via Whole Foods

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