I feel bad about my Crock-Pot: I pull it out to cook barbecue pork. I lug it to parties to keep tiny meatballs or silky crab dip warm. But other than that, it languishes on the floor of my pantry, where it takes up room and collects dust.

I feel bad about my Crock-Pot: It gets ignored at least half the year. While it’s a perfect way to cook winter’s gravy-laden roasts and thick bean soups, who wants to eat gravy and beans in July?

Yesterday dawned hot and humid. I’d thawed a chuck roast the night before and planned to roast it long and slow. The idea was to bake it at a mere 300 degrees for four or five hours, then shred the meat and top it with an herby, crunchy salsa. But one look at the day’s forecast, and I tossed that idea.

I went to the pantry for a coffee cup and stubbed my toes on the blasted Crock-Pot. But instead of feeling bad about its sorry, neglected life, I began to look at it in a new way.

Why not use my Crock-Pot (sad, neglected kitchen tool) to cook my roast?

Why, indeed.

Eight hours after sticking my chuck roast, some tomatoes, some herbs and some garlic in the Crock-Pot, we sat down to a cilantro-studded roast and a summer squash salad. The meat was tender; the herbs were bracing. But best of all, the kitchen — and house — were cool.

I’ll be tapping my Crock-Pot more often for seasonal, summer meals.

I’m feeling pretty good about it!


Summer Crock-Pot Chuck Roast

The genesis of this recipe comes from The Gourmet Cook Book, which advises you to bake a chuck roast for hours in your oven. It’s a pretty good recipe, although the meat has a tendency to dry out, and the pan becomes a nightmare to clean. Adapting it to the Crock-Pot is so much easier. Dress this up for summer with a sprinkling of fresh herbs or an herby oil or pesto sauce. In winter, strain the fat from the cooking juices and make a hearty gravy.

  • 1 boneless chuck roast (use a size that your Crock-Pot can fit comfortably)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (I like Furmano’s)
  • Half a head of garlic
  • A handful of summer herbs

Pat the chuck roast dry, then season it well with kosher salt, pepper, the oregano and the thyme.

Crush half the tomatoes with your hands and place them in the bottom of your Crock-Pot. Pour in half the tomato juice, then top with the seasoned chuck roast.

Crush the remaining tomatoes and place them on top of the roast. Pour in the remaining tomato juice.

Break the half head of garlic into individual cloves (no need to peel them). Scatter the cloves around the roast. Cover with the Crock-Pot’s lid and cook on low for eight hours.

When the time is up, remove the roast from the Crock-Pot and place it on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and garlic and scatter them around the roast. Top with herbs.