It was cold yesterday morning, a perfect Saturday to stay home and read with the homey aromas of pot roast cooking.
Trouble was, the pot roast I'd bought on sale was a fat brick in the freezer, stashed for just such a day. I knew there had to be workarounds. In the tradition of engineers sharing basic cooking tips on the Web, here's how to modify a pot roast recipe.
I searched the Web for recipe frozen pot roast, and struck gold at American Grass Fed Beef, whose owner, Dr. Patricia Whisnant, a veterinarian and mother of six, offers Super Easy Crock Pot Beef Roast Recipe, writing,
...we just throw all the ingredients including the frozen grass fed beef chuck in a crock pot set on low and cook all day (about 8 hours or more). Either way . . . you will have beef so tender it will be falling apart.That was good enough for me. I liked the two cups of water in this recipe -- there would be lots of good juice. Dr. Whisnant used 3/4 liter of burgundy wine in her pot -- 25.3 ounces, more than 3 cups -- but I don't care for purple pot roast, and the only red wine here is about a glassful of leftover Merlot. But I suspect some alcohol is needed for this alchemy.
I do have a bottle of Jack Daniel's. How much?
The Web makes it easy to improvise: Find a similar recipe, scan it for useful enhancements. Search terms: recipe bourbon pot roast.
Joyce's Crockpot Roast with Bourbon says 1/3 cup bourbon. It uses too little water for me -- just 1/4 cup -- and celery, which I don't like hot. I'd stick with Dr. Whisnant's recipe, add garlic and wing it.
I didn't have all the veggies I wanted, but knew I could add them later. They'd hold up better without cooking all day, and there were enough veggies in there at the start to flavor the broth.
10 a.m. I started with,
3 lb frozen beef chuck roast
1 large sliced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, sliced thinly
1 bouillon cube
1 bay leaf, whole
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup Jack Daniel's bourbon whiskey
2 cups water
Put the vegetables, the beef, the spices and liquids into a slow cooker, in that order. Turn the crockpot on low and cover. Go away.
3 thin-skinned 3-inch boiling potatoes, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
1 medium purple-top turnip
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled
1 tsp salt
6:30 p.m. Adjust the seasoning.
Tasty, but a little sweet (from the root vegetables).
In went, for a half-hour's cooking,
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
a few shakes Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce
freshly ground black pepper (hand-ground for about 10 seconds)
1 tsp salt
At 7 p.m. we removed the meat, covered it with foil, turned off the crockpot and let everything sit for a little while longer.
The meat was fall-apart tender, not stringy as it would have been if it were overcooked. (I've had that happen to other all-day crockpot roasts.) We joked that it might still be frozen in the center, but although it looked a little red, like corned beef, it was definitely cooked. We inhaled it.
Leftovers today. And we'll have some hearty beef vegetable soup left over.
Sorry, no pictures. It was a day off from everything.
--The roast was straight from the freezer; if your roast is thawed, this will be too much cooking time.
-- Use waxy "boiling" potatoes, not big bakers. Only use Yukon Golds if you're going to add them late; they tend to fall apart into a slurry if overcooked, and will disintegrate if cooked all day.
--Scotch Bonnet Sauce is the only hot sauce I really like. It's thick, adds flavor as well as heat, and spikes oversweetness. (This isn't gourmet stuff, it's Grace brand from Stop & Shop's Jamaican section.) eatjamaican.com says you can use a bit of skin, or a whole Scotch bonnet pepper, if you don't let it break open, to get the flavor without the heat.
-- Any bouillon cube will work to flavor the water. I only had chicken, but beef might have stood up to the vegetables better.
-- I think the sugar in carrots overwhelms stocks, so I use them sparingly. I like squash more, and the market sells small halves, peeled, washed and wrapped.
-- in these Web searches, I always begin with "recipe" -- it eliminates restaurant menus, retailers and nutritition charts.
-- If you have burgundy wine but no Jack Daniel's, you can reverse engineer this. I'd cut down on the wine, and maybe some of the water. You can always add more water later.