I love you Chuck. Chuck Roast, that is…

So this piece really has no direct correlation to parenting, but since I am quite the little food junkie I felt the need to dedicate an entire blog post to my favorite slab of meat:  the chuck roast.  Why?  Because it’s awesome.  Well if you eat red meat of course, which we do in my family.

As a full-time working mom I make great use of my crock pot all year long, not just in the winter.  And a chuck roast is quite simply one of the most versatile things you can prepare in the slow cooker.  It’s almost impossible to screw up, can take as little or as much seasoning as you want, and can be used in a thousand different ways.

So why the sudden urge to write about my friend Chuck?  When I think about the coming week and what dinners will fit into our busy schedules, I often look for things that I can cook once and use twice.  So yesterday I plopped a chuck roast into the crock pot with some onions, carrots, seasoning, and a little broth, with the intention of having a vintage pot roast dinner.  It turned out perfectly and I served the tender meat with rice, some quick homemade gravy (using the reserved broth), broccoli, and the carrots that cooked alongside the meat.  I felt like June Cleaver serving Ward and the Beaver (minus the patent leather heels), and it was delicious.  But the best part was seeing a big plate of leftover beef, knowing that dinner is covered tonight.  Because I chose to season the meat simply, it’s once again a blank canvas for tonight’s meal, which will be hot beef and cheddar sandwiches.  Nothing is simpler on a weeknight than a hearty sandwich, and this one rocks because the main component is already done.  And since I know it’s a quick fix tonight, I’m hitting the gym after work.  Score.

So here’s the skinny on all the different ways I use this versatile, inexpensive, delicious cut of meat.  I usually try to find a 3-ish pound roast with some good marbling; you need a little fat to ensure it stays moist as it cooks, and trust me, it breaks down completely after 8 hours (on low) in the crock pot.  I typically season it very simply so I can use it more than once in different dishes; salt, pepper, some cut up onions and garlic, and any other “universal” ingredient you want to toss in for flavor.  My arsenal:

  1. Traditional pot roast like I describe above. Add in some carrots and potatoes, serve with rice and gravy and you’ll be a 50’s housewife in no time.
  2. Tacos/burritos/enchiladas. Season the meat with cumin, chili powder, and hot sauce, and use it for your favorite Mexican-style dish.  It’s so flavorful and goes great with traditional taco fixins.  It’s like your own version of Chipotle.
  3. Beef stroganoff.  I love beef stroganoff in the winter.  I’ve made it a dozen different ways, using everything from high quality steak to hamburger, but the shredded crock pot beef is by far my favorite.  When I get home from work all I have to do is shred the meat, combine it with some of the broth (thickened), mushrooms, sour cream, a few herbs, and egg noodles.  So good on a cold night.
  4. Chili.  My husband loves chili made with chunks of beef versus ground beef.  It’s a nice twist on a traditional red chili with beans, and the chuck roast has more flavor than hamburger.
  5. Soup.  Beef and barley, beef vegetable, steak and potato.  Envision the soup aisle at the store and easily recreate it at home.
  6. Sandwiches.  French dip, beef and cheddar, sliders, you name it.  If you slow cook the meat with onions they are soft and sweet and so good on the beefy sandwiches.  Play around with different breads, cheeses, and condiments like horseradish sauce and honey mustard.  I almost always make sandwiches with leftover chuck roast.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.  Want to know what’s even BETTER?  If you don’t want to eat beef two days in a row, it freezes perfectly.  So you can put it away and have it ready a month later when you get the craving.  The same goes for slow roasted pork roast, but that’s a blog for another day…

Chuck, I love ya.  I just wrote an entire blog post about you.