Monday, March 14, 2011

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Coffee and Caramelized Onions

 My Uncle Dennis used to say that you know you're a grown up if you think onions and coffee taste good.  By his definition I am a grown  up, I suppose, though I still prefer a little sprinkle of sugar in my otherwise black coffee. But I wonder what he would have said about throwing those 2 things into a slow-cooker with a hunk of red meat, and letting it simmer and caramelize all day. I think he would have been into it.
I had never made a pot roast before, silly as that is. As I cook more I am discovering a lot of really basic things I have never attempted. I have grilled steak, and roasted meat and made beef stews, but never went to the grocery store, bought a big hunk of chuck, and browned it on the stove them cooked it slowly until it grew tender. I had never even bought meat from the deli counter before, actually. 

I went to the grocery store, and made a bee-line straight for the meat aisle, where all of the cuts of meat are packaged up and displayed in the refrigerator. I didn't see what I wanted exactly, and so, after calling my parents for some "I'm at the store trying to buy some red meat" advice (aren't parents great for that?) I ended up deciding to ask an employee at the deli to cut me a piece of chuck in the size I had decided I wanted, and I specified that I didn't know which cut I would be best off with, but I wanted to make a pot roast that could stand up to slow cooking. Moments later the same employee emerged from the back room with a beautiful portion of shoulder roast, tied up with string, and wrapped in plastic wrap.  

Really, it was beautiful. In fact as I stood in the checkout line, an older woman in line ahead of me turned as I unloaded my items onto the belt and said, in a thick Russian accent, "Beautiful meat!". That is just the kind of thing that would be creepy to hear in any other circumstance, right? I felt quite proud of myself, though, as I hurried home with my (incredibly heavy) grocery bags to start cooking.

Beautiful, right?

So I heated some olive oil in a big, heavy bottomed pot, and browned all sides of the beef. 

 Then set the meat into the basin of my slow cooker, to rest while I cooked up some onions, and brewed a cup of coffee.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Coffee and Caramelized Onions

Serves 4, active prep time 1/2 hour, cooking time 4.5 hours
1 2 to 2.5 lb beef chuck roast
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup strong coffee
1 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 TBS cornstarch mixed with 1 TBS water

Season meat with salt and pepper. 
Heat olive oil in a pan, and brown the meat on all sides
Move the browned meat to the slow cooker basin, and add sliced onions to the hot pan, adding more olive oil if needed.
Cook onions until transparent, then add minced garlic, and thyme, cooking for one minute, then add coffee and vinegar
Pour coffee/onion mixture into the slow cooker, over the meat
Slow cook on high for 4 to 4.5 hours
When meat has finished cooking, let rest, while you reduce the remaining liquid over medium heat, and add the cornstarch flurry to make gravy.

I ate this served over Sage and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes , with Honey Rosemary Carrots and Beet, Orange and Arugula Salad (post coming soon).

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