June 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

Slow cooker or Dutch oven will make a sweet pot roast

Low heat for a long time makes this melt-in-your mouth yummy. (Nealey Dozier)

Like many Southerners, I grew up eating pot roast on a (very) regular basis. And while I will always love my mother’s old-school version, I felt it was time for a little upgrade. I’ve nixed the “pantry helpers” and replaced them with Dijon mustard, maple and balsamic for a delicious take on a classic.

My mom, a busy wife and mother of three, adhered to a strict weekly dinner rotation consisting of “new American” classics. Her repertoire of recipes was quick, consistent, and — most importantly — didn’t stir up complaints from the peanut gallery. She made no apologies about using convenience products to get food on the table, nor should she have. To this day, the mere thought of her cheesy chicken spaghetti and creamy beef stroganoff rouse a deep urge to be transported back to my youth.

This recipe uses my favorite cast of characters to create a rich yet homey dish. I’ve eaten one too many pot roasts on the dry side, so my goal was a buttery, falling-apart piece of meat. The slow cooker is the ideal candidate for the job: Low heat for a long time makes this recipe melt-in-your mouth delicious. And while my mom always cooked potatoes and carrots along with the meat, I wanted something a little more dressed up. Creamy stone-ground grits provide a perfect foil for the savory gravy, while maple roasted carrots add just a hint of sweet.

Maple-Dijon Pot Roast

2 ˝ to 3 pounds beef chuck roast (See note)
4 to 5 slices bacon, diced (or neutral cooking oil)
3 large onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 ˝ to 2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme, for garnish

Note: Beef chuck from the shoulder area is the ideal meat for a pot roast. Cuts of beef chuck can go by many names: 7-bone pot roast, blade roast, chuck-eye roast, boneless chuck roast, shoulder pot roast, mock tender, flat iron roast and cross-rib roast. Choose whichever one has the size and shape to suit your needs. I tested with a 2 ˝ pound “boneless chuck roast.”

Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.

Set a heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the bacon and cook until some fat starts rendering and it begins to turn golden. Push the bacon to the sides and add the beef. Sear both sides until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side, and transfer all the meat to the bowl of the slow cooker.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Pour in a few tablespoons of chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping up any of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the onions and pan juices into the bowl of the slow cooker.

In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining chicken stock, Dijon, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, paprika, salt and pepper until combined. Pour the liquid mixture over the roast. Close the lid and cook on LOW heat until the meat falls apart and is meltingly tender, about 8 hours.

Transfer the roast to serving bowl or platter and cover with foil. Pour the cooking liquids into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the gravy is reduced to desired thickness. Cut the roast into chunks and pour hot gravy over the top. Serve with creamy grits, egg noodles, or mashed potatoes and/or oven-roasted carrots. Serves 6.

To make in a Dutch oven: Prepare the meat and vegetables for the pot roast as directed, then place all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. Cover and simmer over very low heat (or in a 325-degree oven) until the pot roast is tender. Cooking time will be reduced, so begin checking the roast after about 2 hours.

Per serving: 406 calories; 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 13 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 138 mg cholesterol; 620 mg sodium; 46 g protein; 2 g fiber.

kitchn@apartmenttherapy.com