Leave it to June Cleaver: How not to sweat a weeknight pot roast

Slow cooker pot roast sandwich with horseradish mustard sauce. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Slow cooker pot roast sandwich with horseradish mustard sauce. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

I love making elaborate meals, but folks like June Cleaver make whipping up a weeknight dinner look way too easy for my taste.

Through the magic of television, June churns out turkey with all the trimmings on a Tuesday night without so much as breaking a sweat. You never get the feeling that June’s trusty meatloaf burned because she was frantically trying to teach herself how to do lattice math to help her youngest son complete his dreaded homework assignment. Immortalized in black and white, June remains utterly unflappable as she peels a veritable boatload of carrots before placing a perfectly cooked pot roast on the dining room table. And she seems to pull off these sorts of mythical kitchen feats night after nauseating night.

Without the sitcom cameras rolling and laugh tracks in place, real-life parents know that going back to school brings an unpredictable reality TV vibe to the evening supper hour. Explosive temper tantrums over book reports, misplaced novels and last-minute trips to pick up poster board can derail the most well-intentioned weeknight cooks. The worst of nights can leave stunned parents nibbling on dry Cheerios, clutching a glass of cabernet and longing for a serving of June’s reliable and nutritious roast beef dinner. Thankfully, June Cleaver isn’t the only parent who can turn out a Sunday dinner-worthy pot roast on a busy school night. You can do it, too.

Whether or not you choose to wear a frilly apron and a strand of pearls while cooking is up to you, but relying on a retro slow cooker ensures you’ll have a wholesome dinner waiting for your family no matter how hectic the day may get. It takes only a few minutes to toss these simple ingredients into a slow cooker, and mixing up the no-cook sauce is a breeze. After cooking long and low all day, your home will smell like June Cleaver has been hard at work in your kitchen making a pot roast dinner worthy of serving any night of the week.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches
These simply flavored pot roast sandwiches are enhanced considerably by the horseradish sauce and peppery arugula, but younger children may enjoy a plainer version. Do what suits your family, but be sure to serve these sandwiches with carrot and celery sticks to make Mrs. Cleaver proud. (Makes 10-12 servings.)

For the pot roast:
1 4-5 pound boneless beef chuck roast
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
8 ounces lager beer
For the horseradish-mustard sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
For Serving:
6 onion rolls, toasted
Baby arugula

Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the chili powder and thyme over the roast. Toss 1/2 the sliced onion into the bottom of a 7-8 quart crock pot. Place the seasoned roast on top of the onions. Toss the remaining onion and sliced garlic over the roast. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the roast. Add the bay leaf and beer to the side of roast (do not wet the sugar). Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. Shred the meat and return to the liquid in the slow cooker to keep warm.
Meanwhile mix the sour cream, horseradish and mustard. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve the shredded meat, horseradish-mustard sauce and arugula on the toasted onion rolls and enjoy at once.

Sauce Variation, Tangy Red Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon onion powder

Whisk ingredients together and serve on the sandwiches alone or in combination with the horseradish-mustard sauce.

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