From the Field: Slow-cooker Roast Beast

When you’re a busy GM with a gaming group trying to eat healthier, the slow cooker is your best friend. Need a meal at 6pm but you work until 5? No problem! Pitch all the ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave for work, set it, and you’ll have a hearty stew waiting for you. I’ve even used it to cook up a pasta sauce; when I got home I either tossed the pasta right into the slow cooker, or whipped it up separately in about 15 minutes.

But soups, stews, and sauces, as delicious as they are, can get a bit monotonous after a while. Sometime around the third (fourth? I’ve lost track) time you’ve served chili, your group might be asking, “Is this all we have to look forward to?”

That’s when you break out the big guns: the complete slow-cooker roast beef dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 beef roast (weight dependant on your budget and group size; I usually go for about 5 lbs)
  • 2 medium potatoes per group member, plus one extra potato (whatever potato is your favorite)
  • 1 bag of carrots (not baby carrots, they’ll be mush by the end of this)
  • 1 or 2 cans/bottles of your favorite beer (what you do with the rest is your business)
  • 1 large yellow onion, or 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt/pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Rub the entire roast with the olive oil. Mix spices together and rub into roast (you may need more spices depending on roast size; increase the amounts as needed but keep the ratios). Sprinkle roast on all sides with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Bring a large frying pan or grilling surface to medium-high heat on your stove. Place the roast in the pan and brown it, turning it as needed to brown it on all sides. You’re not trying to cook it through at this stage, just get a nice color on the outside. When done, place the roast in the slow-cooker.

  3. Wash and chop your carrots. How you cut them up is largely a matter of personal taste. I usually cut each carrot into roughly 4-inch lengths, then quarter each of those. Once chopped, add to slow cooker around the roast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Separate your bulb of garlic into cloves, but don’t remove their skins. Chop your large onion into eighths; or, chop your green onions into roughly 2-inch lengths. Add to the slow cooker.

  5. Wash all the potatoes but leave the skin on. Cut each potato into quarters and add to slow-cooker. Add one can/bottle of your favorite beer to the slow-cooker. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Start the slow cooker. Depending on how you want your roast done, set for either 4 hours (if you want a medium rare to medium roast) or 6 hours (if you want a medium to medium well roast). When time is up, check the roast with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s where you want it. If it isn’t, remove from slow-cooker and finish in oven until it’s at your desired temp. Remove the potatoes and carrots from the slow-cooker with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter, or directly onto plates.

At this point you have steamed carrots, potatoes, and a delicious roast.

“But Brent,” you cry in terror. “What about the gravy!?” Shh, it’s okay, I haven’t forgotten.

At the bottom of your slow-cooker will be all the juicy drippings from the roast, mixed in with that beer and the moisture the potatoes and carrots released during cooking. If you don’t have a hand blender, pour this through a strainer into a small pot and place on medium heat. Add the extra beer if you need more liquid, but you should be fine. Remember that extra potato you cooked? Remove its skin and add it, a quarter at a time, to the pot. Blend each quarter in with a fork until the entire mixture is smooth. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. The gravy will thicken as it sits.

If you do have a hand blender, things get even better! Pour everything — onion chunks, garlic cloves, and whatever little bits of potato, carrot, and roast beef have fallen to the bottom — straight into the small pot. Add the second beer if you need more liquid, then zap the whole thing with the hand blender until smooth. Add that extra potato and zap it again. Then bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, but you shouldn’t need to.

If you aren’t a roast beef fan, you can follow the same steps but using a pork roast, ham, or chicken; use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat de jour is properly cooked. Want the vegetarian option? Take out the meat and substitute in any flavorful large-cap mushrooms, and/or 1-inch thick slices of extra-firm tofu.

There, a big hearty meal that isn’t a soup or a stew. Your gamers will love it! Give it a try and let us know how it works out for you in the comments.

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