Real Food for Real Life

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday Dinner (easy enough for a weekday)

Sunday was a busy day, and with much to accomplish, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. That said, it was still Sunday, and we like to have a nice meal together on Sundays. The answer was found in my crock pot (a 7-qt. stainless model that is one of the most useful Christmas gifts I have ever received, that and the rice cooker). I had thawed a pot roast the night before just for this purpose. The roast, with a nice fresh mushroom sauce and simple sides of spatzle style egg noodles and steamed green beans would be simple enough for this busy day, but still worthy of a nice Sunday dinner.

Easy Pot Roast with Fresh Mushroom Sauce

2 1/2 to 3 lb. pot roast
1 lb mushrooms of your choice
1 head of garlic
1 cup dry red wine
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried oregano

To serve: egg noodles or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Place the roast in your crockpot and season liberally with the salt, pepper, and oregano. If you have the time (I did not in this instance), it is nice to sear the roast on all sides to a nice dark brown before adding it to the pot; deglaze the pan with a little wine and add that to the pot as well.
For the mushrooms, use whatever you like or happen to have on hand; I used crimini, but button mushrooms work very well. Wipe the mushroom, trim the stem and slice thickly. Scatter around the sides of the roast. Peel the garlic cloves, thinly slice and scatter the slices. This seems like a lot of garlic, but it becomes very mellow during the long cooking, and the smell in the house is absolutely divine. If this is to be a weekday meal, just prepare the mushrooms and garlic the night before, refrigerate, and put it all together in the morn.
Pour in a cup or so of dry red wine, nothing expensive here but please use something you would be willing to drink. A waste not tip - if you have a bottle around that has been open a few days and may not still be perfect, this is a great way to still enjoy it. This is not a great amount of liqid, but it does increase in volume when the meat and mushrooms release their own juices.Cover the pot and cook on low for 6 hours (do not remove the lid or fuse with it in any way). Ideally, your crockpot has a setting to switch it to warm after your predetermined cooking time, then you can just leave it until shortly efore dinner time.
About 1/2 hour before dinner time, remove the roast to a plate and cover tightly with foil to keep warm; it also becomes easier to slice with this resting time. Turn the crockpot up to high and stir in a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch that you have disolved in a small amount of water. Cover and let the starch do its magic to thicken the tasty juices in the pot. In the meanstime, prepare the rest of you meal. When serving, slice the roast across the grain, leaving any bits that fall from the pretty slices on the plate. Serve with your starch and veg of choice, ladle on some of the sauce and enjoy.

My philosophy about leftovers...

Some people do not like leftovers, one friend even told me that her husband refuses to eat them (shame on him!), but I cook big because I love to have leftovers. My husband takes a lunch to work every day and leftovers afford something other than the same old same old sandwich; and I like them for lunch at home as well. The leftover roast I sliced thinly and spooned a little gravy over to keep moist. Ben will have pot roast sandwiches for lunch this week. The leftover noodles, meat bits, gravy and green beans I mixed together for several lunches for me this week. The noodles soak up the gravy and make a warm bowl of goodness!

Ample leftovers allow me to package small freezer meals for my grandfather since he is on his own now. Many meals and/or sauces freeze very well, so I will prepare a double or triple batch so that I may freeze some for a day that, for whatever reason, I am able to make dinner, all we have to do is thaw and reheat a previously prepared home cooked meal (better than most takeout). And one of my favorites is taking the leftovers and "re-purposing" then for another meal, like I did with the chicken pot pie in a previous post. So my advice to everyone is that even if you are cooking for six, or only two, cook big and love those leftovers.

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