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Feb 25, 2008 04:41 PM

Help - dinner for my grandparents

I will be visiting my grandparents that are in their 80's this weekend. I asked them what they would like for dinner and the response was .."maybe a nice roast with potatoes, carrots, celery and onions - something you can just throw in the crockpot". Sounds delicious, right? But I never have any luck with a slow cooker - the veggies just always seem mushy - and i never know what kind of meat to buy. And how do I make a "gravy" for the meat and potatoes? Any advice would be appreciated. Or ideas for other "hearty" NOT gourmet meals that would be well balanced would be appreciated. I thought about making a big pot of beef vegetable soup too.

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  1. try brisket... stud a nice piece of meat with whole garlic cloves throughout... in a roasting pan, make a bed of slice white onions, layer on the meat, slice red potatoes in half and surround the meat along with sliced carrots... bake and baste. one pot hearty meal.

    1. I've found that the best cut of beef for pot roast is chuck roast. It has the perfect amount of fat to keep the roast moist and tender while cooking a long time. Place roast in the crock pot with some beef stock and red wine, salt, pepper, thyme, a splash of worcestershire, sliced carrots, sliced celery and some sliced onions and cook on low.

      An hour before you're ready to eat, roast off some veggies in the oven. Place potatoes, carrots, whole cloves of garlic, wedges of onion, celery in a shallow baking pan and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and some thyme. Roast at 400 for 45 min to an hour, or until done and caramelized. This will give you veggies that aren't overdone and mushy from cooking with your roast.

      As for the gravy, when you take the roast out of the crock pot, you'll have liquid left and your mushy veggie solids. Strain out the solids, pushing down on the veggies and pour the juice into a pan and separate off the fat. Top off with more beef stock if needed. Make a slurry of flour (or cornstarch) and water (I probably use 2-3Tbsp flour in 1/4 cup water) and pour slowly into your boiling liquid, whisking constantly. Keep your liquid at a simmer and cook about 5 min until thickened. Taste and season with salt and plenty of black pepper, or whatever suits your taste.

      Another good, simple meal is roast chicken. You can do the veggies as above and roast them at the same time as the chicken, even in the same pan. Just place the chicken on top of the veggies in your roasting pan and roast away!

      3 Replies
      1. re: QueenB

        QueenB has some great suggestions. I love pot roast made in a crockpot, but after experimenting, have found that searing the meat gives even better flavor. So, I season all sides of the meat with seasoning blend, or just salt and pepper. Sear in a small amount of vegetable oil in a hot pan, on all sides. Then place the meat in the crockpot. I then add some of the wine and stock to the same pan, boil, and scrape up any drippings. Pour this over the meat and just follow the directions QueenB has provided. Searing the meat and then deglazing the pan doesn't take long, and gives some additional great flavor to the meat. Oh, and I agree..I always use a chuck roast for pot roast in the crockpot.

        1. re: mschow

          To add onto mschow's excellent suggestions, I dredge the meat in a seasoned flour first. Add chopped vegetables (standard carrots, onions, celery and garlic) to the pan after searing. Sautee them, add some of the seasoned flour and cook through. Deglaze w/ wine and/or broth and/or beer (dark is better, adds a nice richness), cook until starting to thicken. Then add to meat in crockpot. About half an hour before serving, if sauce hasn't thickened, remove the meat, leave lid off crockpot and heat on high until you have a gravy. I agree that searing the meat makes a big difference.

        2. re: QueenB

          As a slight variation on the above, you could also make mashed potatoes, which go great with the beef gravy.

          For a veggie you could take string beans (if your market sells good fresh ones), boil them till tender, drain water, put back in pan and and add a little butter, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and several grinds of pepper for some good lemon-pepper string beans.

        3. A butcher once tipped me off that if you throw a couple of neck bones on top of your roast (I always used a 7-bone shoulder blade cut), you'd get tons of flavor. He was right. I always make my pot roast in this way now.

          As for the veggies, I thought that in the case of being served with a pot roast, they were meant to be soft. If you want to add my texture to the meal, maybe add a nice salad and loaf of crusty bread. Mmmm, pot roast sure is sounding good! My Mom is visiting and we're having Chinese tonight, but maybe tomorrow...

          1 Reply
          1. re: mercyteapot

            Mercy, you hit the nail on the head about beef and bones. Unfortunately, not many stores/butchers sell pot roasts or even sirloin steaks with bones any longer. The bones really do add a lot of flavor. I am not a devotee of crock pots, but I find that 1-2 lb. of chuck bones added to a 3-4 lb. pot roast, properly browned or seared in a high heat oven before braising really makes a HUGE improvement in the taste of the dish. I also add 1-2 lb. of chuck bones to stew meat when making a stew.

          2. Roast in the crockpot is great, but just leave the veggies out until about the last hour or so. Or, you can just steam them by themselves. I put onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup and some water (about 1/2-3/4 cup) in with the roast and crock on low about 8-10 hours. Take your meat out and process all the drippings in your blender or food processor = gravy!!! Enjoy... and for pics...


            2 Replies
            1. re: Oh Robin

              Young people may like their vegetables steamed so they're barely done, and restaurants now serve them this way, but folks in their 80's may have dental issues and want their vegetables cooked soft. Also, you don't have to make gravy extra if you do it this way: start with your dry crockpot and put 1/2 cup flour in it with any other dry ingredients (salt, paprika, any spices) then carefully stir in an 8-oz can of tomato paste so there aren't any lumps, then stir in the rest of your liquid (water, stock, wine, whatever). As the meat and vegetables cook, a nice gravy will form.

              1. re: Oh Robin

                I also brown the meat first (if I have time), and put the roast on top of about half the root vegetables. about an hour or so before I am going to serve I toss in a can of cream of mushroom soup (I'm so glad Oh Robin said it first) and top everything with the rest of the vegetables. Some of the veggies will be very soft, some more firm, a little bit of something for everyone. The mushroom soup will have a chance to mix in with the uices (my _ay key _ust stopped working) and makes an easy gravy.