Weekend Cooking – December 18, 2010

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With the cold weather, rainy (or snowy) days, and the light fading quickly on these winter afternoons…my slow cooker comes out of hiding and gets used frequently. I love this appliance for the way it helps meld flavors over the course of hours, the ease at which I can produce a dinner which looks like it took much more effort to make, and for the way the house fills with the smell of good food and greets me when I walk in after having worked a long day.

One of my absolute favorite slow cooking cookbooks is Beth Hensperger’s Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. Hensperger has a real gift at creating modern food which also feels old-fashioned. And there is nothing quite like slow cooking to bring out the comfort food cooker in all of us. This past week we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday and I decided to make a pot roast with all the fixings for her birthday dinner. Hensperger has several pot roast recipes in her lovely book, but the one which caught my attention was on page 315-16 and called: Our Best Pot Roast with Roots. Hensperger writes:

This simple, old-fashioned pot roast is sublimely delicious: meltingly tender meat, with a rich-tasting sauce. Take the time to dice the vegetables finely (1/4 to 1/2 inch on a side), brown the meat well, and bring the water to a full boil before adding it to the crockery insert. Each of these steps plays a part in the dish’s final goodness.

This awesome recipe uses turnips, carrots, onions, and celery along with red wine to create the gravy (the roast cooks for 8-9 hours on low along with all these ingredients). In the last hour of cooking, I popped some small red potatoes and diced carrots into the oven to roast; and just before serving, I seared some fresh green beans as side dishes. We had a crusty loaf of bread and a good bottle of red wine … and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how it all came out!

I wish I could tell you I spent the time to bake a cake from scratch – but, alas, I opted to buy a pre-baked cake from my local grocery store…and you know what, it was great!

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13 comments

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  1. I’ve not had much luck with crock pots. I recently won a new one and made one good meat in it. I’m still reluctant to use it. Everything except meat turns out mushy.

    • Beth F on December 18, 2010 at 13:00

    I love Beth H’s bread books too. You know, I think I own this crockpot book. I’m going to have to look for it and give that pot roast a try. So perfect on these cold nights.

    • Pam on December 18, 2010 at 15:34

    Hey, I’ve nothing against a yummy store-boxed cake. ;O)

  2. I don’t use my crockpot as often as I should but you can not beat it for pot roast. in fact it is the only way I make pot roast anymore..and I include red wine too.

    • Margot on December 18, 2010 at 15:51

    I’ve checked this book out three times from the library because it is sooo good. I really ought to buy it. I haven’t tried this recipe but it sounds delicious.

  3. i LOVE my crockpot but always make the same 3 things in it. i need to branch out and the book you mention might be my breakout tool! 🙂

    hope your mil had a great bday–are you sure she’s 80?? she looks wonderful.

    my sister and i spent yesterday and today baking cookies and making gum drop trees. she’s a bit of tyrant but we’re having fun all the same.

    wishing you peace this holiday season.

    • Betty on December 18, 2010 at 21:18

    With crockpots mushy vegitables are a hazzard. Try putting them in awhen the meat is almost done. When I get home from work the meat id done, I put in the veggies about half to 1 hour before serving depending on the veggie and how well done you like them.

    • zibilee on December 19, 2010 at 17:24

    I am using my slow cooker a lot more these days too! I love pot roast in the slow cooker, and like my recipe, but would love to try yours as well. Thanks for posting this and sharing it with us!

  4. I’ve use my slow cooker a lot during the winter as well. Your mother-in-law looks quite happy with the cake you picked for her!

  5. That sounds delicious! Browning the meat is a must. Happy Birthday to your mother in law!

    • Wendy on December 20, 2010 at 07:48
      Author

    Callista: If you don’t have a really good crockpot cookbook, I recommend the one I used for this recipe. Things can get mushy if not prepped right before, or if there is too much liquid, or if the cook time is too long. I love making stews in my crockpot, but the key is keeping the size of the vegetables medium (rather than small). Also, sometimes I just cook a roast or a whole chicken without the veggies in there (like I did this time) and just do the veggies separate.

    Beth F: I love her bread books too! You should definitely try some of her recipes in this one (her stew recipes are wonderful)

    Pam: *laughs* Neither do I!

    Caite: I agree – there is something about the long, slow cooking of the roast that makes it so good.

    Margot: *laughs* I definitely think you need to get a copy for yourself – maybe a nice gift from someone?!??!

    Nat: It is fun to try something new from time to time, but old favorites are always good too 🙂 My MIL definitely looks younger than her age (I’ll have to pass on your compliment to her!). Glad you had some fun making cookies with your sister – tyrant or not!! Wishing you peace as well…

    Betty: That is a great suggestion!

    Heather: You’re welcome – I just love seeing what other people are doing with their crockpots too.

    Michelle: I think she was pleased!

    Lisa: I agree – browning the meat really makes a big difference.

  6. I love my slow cooker and all of the yummy dinners I can make in it. My favorites are stew and chili.

  7. I imagine you all enjoyed the pot roast (and cake!) … at this time of year I make a crock-pot recipe at least once a week. I’ll have to look for this cookbook.

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