For years one of our favorite family recipes was Pot Roast (in The Berghoff Family Cookbook). Except for the flour roux used to thicken the sauce, it is gluten free. Recently, however, I have been using the slow cooker more and more. Nothing beats it for hands-free convenience. I put recipes in the morning, set the timer and by the time I come home, the main part of family dinner is done. So I updated the original pot roast recipe for my slow cooker.
The Berghoff Pot Roast was cooking in the family and the restaurant (founded in 1898) decades before the slow cooker was invented. The first slow cooker, called the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Slow Cooker, was invented c. 1970 by Irving Naxon who remembered his Jewish grandmother describing a traditional dish called cholent that cooked all night. (On the Sabbath orthodox Jews refrain from all work, including turning on and off any stove; so food has to be put in the oven before sundown where it cooks unattended overnight.) So he created a one-piece, 12-inch high by 8-inch round electric cooker with 3 different cooking temperatures.
In 1970 Rival Corporation bought Naxon and reintroduced the appliance under the name of Crock-Pot in 1971. In 1974 they introduced a new design: a removable stoneware insert, which made it easy to clean. That design has remained unchanged ever since. The only variations are the shape and capacity of the slow cooker, and the material of the insert: stoneware, ceramic or metal. In the 1970s slow cookers became very popular because more and more women were working outside the home. Obviously that trend has continued! Slow cookers can be used for meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, stews, soups and chili.
A word of caution about cooking beans in your slow cooker. Kidney and some other dried beans such as fava have a toxin, phytohaemagglutenin. It is destroyed by boiling but not by the lower temperatures of the slow cooker. So if you cook dried beans in the slow cooker, please soak them overnight, discard the soaking water and boil them in fresh water for at least 10 minutes. Alternatively, cover dried beans with water and boil them for 30 minutes. Then drain, rinse, and add them to the slow cooker. You can also add canned beans toward the end of cooking.
The original pot roast flavors are still rich, savory and satisfying when cooked in the slow cooker; however, I have modernized it somewhat. I use readily available fresh marjoram in place of the dried marjoram the recipe calls for. And I use boneless chuck roast instead of the recipe’s ball tip or eye of round. I find those cuts somewhat dry. And instead of thickening the sauce with a brown flour roux, I simply puree it with the immersion blender, resulting in low fat but high flavor. Leftovers are simply great!
- 4- to 5-pound boneless chuck roast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil of choice
- 1 ½ cups diced carrots
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 ½ cups diced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon™ chicken or beef base
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup A.1 Steak Sauce™
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 3 to 4 tablespoons gluten-free flour, if needed for thickening
- Trim chunks of visible fat from chuck and discard. Using cooking twine, tie roast into compact shape. Reserve.
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add carrots, onion, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have browned but not burned. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a large slow cooker. Add reserved beef roast.
- Return the sauté pan to the burner and turn heat to high. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Pour into slow cooker.
- Add water, chicken base, tomatoes, steak sauce, and remaining seasonings.
- Cover and cook on high for 7 hours.
- Remove roast from slow cooker to a platter and reserve. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
- Using an immersion blender puree the sauce in the crockpot. Alternatively, transfer the sauce in batches to a blender or food processor and puree. Return sauce to pot.
- Cut off and discard twine from pot roast. Serve sliced with sauce from the slow cooker.
- Accompany with redskin potatoes or mashed Yukon gold potatoes.
- If sauce seems to thin, make a roux of 3 to 4 tablespoons of gluten-free flour of choice stirred into 4 tablespoons of water. Stir into the sauce and cook until thickened.
- Serve with skin-on boiled baby redskin potatoes, or mashed Yukon gold potatoes.
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