When I think back, there are only a handful of home-cooked meals that I remember from my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of delicious food over the years—usually made by the loving hands of my dear Granny—but only a few of those dishes were worthy of being committed to long-term memory. Granny’s pot roast is one of them.
The pot roast I remember was browned, then slow-cooked for hours in a Dutch oven along with potatoes, carrots, celery and onions. By the time it was ready to serve, the meat was so tender that it fell apart, and the vegetables would all but melt in your mouth. I just ate an hour ago, but the mere thought of it makes my mouth water, even many years later.
As a professional gardener, I take particular pride in re-creating traditional dishes, using fresh ingredients and boosting the health and nutrition whenever I can. When it came time for me to give pot roast a makeover, I looked no further than my herb garden for inspiration. A few sprigs of fresh picked rosemary, thick-sliced mushrooms, and a generous helping of garlic come together and work their magic, infusing this roast with a rich, earthy umami that adds a gorgeous depth to the flavor not present in the original (sorry, Granny!).
Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Mushrooms
- 4 lb. boneless chuck roast
- 1 large sweet yellow onion
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 6-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 pint button mushrooms
- 2 cups red wine (not cooking wine)
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Olive oil
- All-purpose flour
- Salt & pepper
- Season roast well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and dredge in flour to coat.
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and brown roast on all sides, roughly 4 minutes per side.
- Slice the onion thinly with a mandoline slicer or a well-sharpened chef’s knife. Slice the mushrooms into quarter-inch slices.
- Place onion slices in a layer in the slow cooker and top with the browned roast. Add garlic, red wine and water, and place the rosemary sprigs on top of the roast. Cover and cook on low setting for 6-7 hours.
- Add mushrooms and cover, cooking for an additional 30 minutes to an hour.
Now you’re going to notice that this makes a lot of roast, and that was totally intentional. My Granny was a smart woman, and she knew the value of planning ahead. With that in mind, I want to share a few of my favorite ways to make meals out of the leftovers from pot roast.
As you might expect, these meals all come together with very little added work, and with all the flavor that’s packed into the beef, every dish tastes as flavorful as the first.
Pot Roast Sandwiches
This roast makes great leftover sandwiches right out of the fridge at 1 o’clock in the morning when you stayed up late binge-watching M*A*S*H on Netflix. OK, so maybe that’s just me. Cut a thick hunk or two and place the roast on some good, sturdy bread slathered with a little brown mustard, some lettuce, and maybe even a slice of cheese if you really want to get crazy.
Pot Roast Tacos
Another surprisingly perfect leftover dish happens when you shred the beef and use it to make a quick taco dinner. Start with some sliced onions and sweet peppers. Sauté them in a little oil until they are just softened. Remove from the skillet and set aside, then add the shredded meat (and any mushrooms you might have left) to the warm skillet, add a tablespoon of water and heat through.
Serve on soft tortillas with a dollop of sour cream and salsa, and get ready to hear your taste buds say ole!
Vegetable Beef Soup
This one was easily my Granny’s favorite because she grew up understanding the value of a good soup. I was taught to appreciate it as well, knowing that a simple soup recipe is inexpensive and can easily be extended to accommodate additional dinner guests. Growing up as Granny did during the Great Depression, it wasn’t uncommon to have a hungry stranger show up at your door, and a bowl of warm soup with a piece of bread would go a long way.
For my vegetable beef soup, I use all of the remaining liquid, onions and mushrooms to create a soup base. I add the lot to my blender with some water, and then heat it in a stock pot over medium heat. While that heats, I cut up whatever vegetables I have on hand and add them to the pot. Usually you’ll find potatoes, carrots, celery, green beans, perhaps some corn or peas if they’re available.
Next, I either chop or shred the meat and add that to the pot as well. At this point I taste my broth for seasoning and may add salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano to get the flavor I want. After bringing everything to a boil, I lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
As we get ready to swing the holiday season into gear, I hope you are enjoying delicious food and quality time with those you love. See you next month when I pull out all the stops with some of my favorite holiday foods.
Michael Nolan is a professional gardener and food writer based in Atlanta. His digital cookbook, “Food Camp: Kitchen Survival Skills,” is available on Amazon.com or through his website, MyEarthGarden.com.