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A slow cooker lesson and a hearty meal

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Granddaughter Sora has seen me use my slow cooker for some of her favorite meals, including steak smothered in creamy gravy, a pot roast loaded with vegetables and tender chicken shredded and mixed with homemade barbecue sauce.

I decided last week it was time to introduce Sora to an old family favorite I hadn’t made in several years — French dip sandwiches.

A few days before, Sora’s daddy ordered a French dip sandwich at a local restaurant, and my mouth watered just looking at his plate of food. I decided right then that I’d be making our own version again very soon.

It took me a while, but I finally found the recipe I originally shared in my column back in 2006. Goodness. That was a long time ago!

I basically remembered the recipe but wanted to confirm amounts.

Sora and I assembled the few ingredients we needed: beef bottom round, a small can of mushrooms, an onion, beef broth and a few bay leaves.

Sora pulled the skin off the sweet onion and worked on her knife skills to cut the onions in slices. I am not the best person to teach her how to cut an onion! I’ve watched a lot of cooking shows over the years, and I’ve seen chefs cut an onion the “correct” way. I don’t cut onions the correct way, but I get the job done.

We discussed how I sometimes brown large pieces of beef before putting it in the slow cooker. I told her it’s usually because I want the browned edges — a difference in texture that comes with searing meat in a hot skillet. This is especially important for shredded pork, I think, or turkey tenderloins when I’m making turkey barbecue.

For the French dip recipe, I told her, it just wasn’t necessary to brown the roast in advance. That makes the recipe even easier.

Sora read the recipe and placed the ingredients in the slow cooker. She set the timer on my new slower cooker (my new kitchen toy!) and closed the lid. I gently touched the side of the slow cooker a few minutes later and told Sora I always check to make sure it is heating. I also commented how nice it was to know at 9 a.m. that our supper was cooking!

We left the house soon after that, and when we came back an hour or so later, I could smell the food cooking. Over the course of the day, we both commented how good our dinner smelled and how nice it was to spend a few minutes in preparation to enjoy a delicious meal later in the day.

Sora had friends over that afternoon. When they went home, we headed to the kitchen to see how our roast had cooked. Sora, who is most definitely a lover of beef, asked if she could taste it right then. I told her it was probably hot, but that didn’t stop her from pulling off a nice forkful of the tender beef. She quickly ate it and smiled with approval.

She also asked me if she could just eat the meat and not put it in a sandwich. I told her that was fine, but I’d like for her to try a little bit of it in a sandwich.

I made sandwiches for Reggie and me. He had the mushrooms and onions as well as provolone cheese on his; I made mine with cheese only. All three of us had small bowls filled with the seasoned broth from the slow cooker for dipping.

Sora tried the pulled beef in a sandwich roll but preferred to eat the beef alone. I dipped my sandwich in broth and added some ketchup as well. (I love ketchup.) My husband added horseradish sauce to his sandwich and also dipped it in the broth.

It’s funny, when I read back over my column from 2006, my husband, children and I all ate the beef in different forms as well. But we all had the same consensus then and now. We love it!

Lisa Boykin Batts and 10-year-old granddaughter Sora are cooking in the kitchen this summer and offering ideas on how families can help their children learn to cook.

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

2- to 3-pound beef bottom round (chuck roast would be my second choice)

4-ounce can mushroom or mushroom pieces (drained)

1 14-ounce can beef broth (I use the reduced-sodium version)

1 large onion, sliced

2 bay leaves (optional)

Sub rolls

Provolone cheese

Remove excess fat from beef bottom round and place in slow cooker. (I use slower cooker liner for easy clean up.) Pour mushrooms, onions and then beef broth on top of roast. Add in bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours.

Shred cooked beef for sandwiches. I added provolone to mine and briefly put the sandwich in a warm oven to melt the cheese. Serve broth for dipping.

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