Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grassfed Chuck Roast, with Leeks and Fennel, in the Slow Cooker

Remember Crockpots?  Who doesn't have a Crockpot story to tell:  "It tipped over in the car on the way to a potluck!  The beans hadn't even begun to get soft after 12 hours of cooking!"  My personal stories are more along the lines of special dinners being ruined because the slow-cooked entree was ... ah ... not so much cooked as poached in a sea of simmered sludge.

But no more.  Crockpots (generically known as slow cookers) are back with a vengeance.  After all, we're all busy.  We still want, as we did in days of Crockpot yore, to return home on a blustery fall evening to the savory smells of a dinner that is ready to eat.

Creative cooks have worked hard to achieve this renaissance in slow cooking.  Having been intrigued by a number of their cookbooks, I decided to jump into the fray with Liana Krissoff's Secrets of Slow Cooking, and Costco's offering of a sleek, modern, 7-quart Crockpot. 

The ancient 4-quart Crockpot I received as a wedding present in 1978 still works fine, but I was interested in the larger capacity, and ... the new digital controls!  Essentially the same as older models (high and low settings), but now the hours count down so you know just how much time has elapsed, and when the hours you set are reached, the unit switches to "keep warm" mode.

For this, my first slow cooking foray in a couple of decades,  I decided to stick with a simple beef dish.  I thawed a Thundering Hooves grassfed chuck roast (Blue Valley Meats bought the inventory when Thundering Hooves went out of business) and checked out a slew of recipes in books and online.

I drafted up a unique recipe of my own, but when I started to prepare it, I found that my carrots had frozen in the vegetable bin, and I had no onions but did have a fennel bulb.  Hence, the recipe I intended became this recipe instead.  And when, five hours into the cooking process, I discovered two large leeks lurking in the fridge, I sliced those up and tossed them in.  The result was so amazing that I'll definitely re-create this re-created recipe next time. 


A splendid, satisfying winter dish.  I served it with a deep green kale salad with dried cranberries and walnuts, and spaghetti squash.  Winter dinners don't get much better than this.

One 4-1/2 pound grassfed chuck roast (or smaller roasts to total about 4 pounds)

3 tomatoes, diced, or a can of diced tomatoes
1 7-ounce jar or can tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine
1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (about 10 cloves)
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 large leeks, sliced (or put them in at cooking midpoint*)
1/4 cup oregano
1/4 cup thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 bay leaves

Cut roast into even pieces (I cut mine into three chunks) and place them in the slow cooker.

Mix all remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour the red wine into the empty tomato paste jar, cap and shake to rinse all the last bits of tomato paste out.  Pour the sauce mixture over the roast, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

My roast (4-1/2 pounds) was tenderly, meltingly perfect, at 8 hours.  I removed the meat to a casserole, then poured the sauce into a deep saucepan, where I used my immersion blender to turn it into the most amazingly delicious (and starch-free) gravy. 

This recipe easily would serve 8 people.

*It's a myth that removing the slow cooker's cover during cooking releases epic amounts of heat.  You could even leave the lid off and get great results.  So, poke, prod and add to your heart's content!


  1. Hi Becky,

    I'm trying to reach you to discuss the possibility of including a few of your recipes (with credit and a link) in a meal plan web app I've created. I can't find a contact form here so I figured I'd try leaving a comment. Can you please contact me at this email address to discuss this further?


  2. I'd be happy to contact you, but I don't see an e-mail address to reply to ....

  3. Hi Becky,

    Sorry, I thought it would show up in your admin interface when I left a comment. I'd rather not post it online, so if you wouldn't mind can you contact me through the form on my website: