Recently, the New York Times ran a recipe for Basic Pot Roast that struck my fancy. It got me to thinking about my mom’s pot roast with the fall-apart meat, gravy, carrots and potatoes melting in my mouth. I have no idea where her recipe isâ€”if she used one. Sunday I got around to cooking this Basic Pot Roast.
This is really basic; meat, water, potatoes, carrots, onions, salt and pepper. That’s it. One doesn’t even brown the meat. That seemed odd, but I decided to go with the recipe.
I haven’t done a pot roast in ages, so I didn’t have memory to go by. I did take the trouble to buy a fine grass fed Chuck Eye Roast from Marin Sun Farm. I salted and peppered the meat put it in my wonderful cast iron pot, poured in water half way up the meat and popped it in the oven, as instructed. The recipe went on, “To prepare the vegetables, combine them [even the onions] in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, until they begin to soften. Drain well, and add to pot in which meat is cooking. Continue to cook in oven until meat is done and vegetables are tender.”
Once the roast was in the oven, I had plenty of time to do some pot roast research, but no means to escape this most basic preparation. I checked out my most respected cookbooks that do pot roast, James Beard, Julia and Jacques, Marcella Hazan, and for a baseline, Cook’s Illustrated.
There were some constants:
- All browned the meat before roasting.
- All used a mirepoix of some sort.
- All used wine as all or part of the braising liquid.
James Beards Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, has two braised beef recipes.
Boeuf a la Mode [French-Style Pot Roast]. Marinate the brisket for 6 to 12 hours with a pig’s foot, an onion studded with cloves, sliced onion, carrot and garlic, cognac and red wine. Brown the beef, then braise the beef and pig’s foot in strained marinade in a 300 degree oven. Add leeks, pearl onions, carrots, celery and tomato paste and continue to cook in the oven until just tender. Serve with strained and reduced sauce and separately cooked potatoes.
Estouffat de Noel [Braised Beef with Wine and Brandy]
Put pork rind or pig’s foot on the bottom of a pot. Make a bed of vegetables (shallot, onion, carrot), garlic and thyme. Add the beef. Add Armagnac and red wine and start in a 350 degree oven, then lower to 300, then to 250; long, slow cooking is essential for this dish. Remove the pot from the oven, let cool completely and skim the fat. Reheat and serve with boiled potatoes or macaroni to soak up the lovely sauces.
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home
Jacques’s Pot Roast
Sear the roast on all sides. In the pot, arrange bay leaves, thyme sprigs, chopped onion and tomato around the meat. Add white wine and water. Braise for about 3 hours in a 300 degree oven, add turnip wedges, small white onions, baby carrots and braise for another hour. Out of the oven, add peas. Slice the meat onto a warm platter. Spoon the vegetables all around the meat and moisten all with the sauce.
The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan
Stracotto al Barolo [Beef Braised in Red Wine Sauce]
Brown the Chuck Roast. Saute chopped onion, carrot and celery and add to the pot along with red wine and beef broth, 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes, thyme and marjoram. Braise for about 3 hours in a 350 degree oven. Slice the meat onto a warm platter and pour the sauce over the meat.
This being Italian, one would have had a pasta first course, and a vegetable, such breaded fried asparagus would be served with the meat.
Cook’s Illustrated has all your standard home cook recipes that have been well tested and tasted, so I looked to them for a base line.
Cook’s Illustrated, March 2002
Pot Roast with Root Vegetables
Brown roast thoroughly on all sides. Transfer roast to large plate; cook onion, carrot, and celery in pot until beginning to brown. Add garlic and sugar broth and thyme, scraping. Add the meat and braise for about 3 hours at 300 degrees. Add carrots, red potatoes, and parsnips and continue to cook until vegetables are almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the meat to a warm platter. Add 1/4 cup red wine to the pot and boil to reduce the sauce and finish cooking the vegetables.
All of this is not to say that the Basic Pot Roast was not good. It came out well, although the gravy was a bit thin. But the good beefy taste was there.
Basic Pot Roast
NYTimes March 1, 2006
Adapted for the NY Times from Eric Stirling and further adapted by eatsforone.com for a smaller roast.
I have a 2.86 pound roast (2 pound 12 ounce), 40% of the full recipe
1 boneless chuck roast, about 3-pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
3 to 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 to 4 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered, with root ends left intact
1 tablespoons flavor booster such as Gravy Master,
or 1 ounce glace de veau or reduced beef stock.
1. Rinse roast quickly in running water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle liberally on all sides with salt and pepper to taste, rubbing into surface of meat. Place in a deep heavy-duty ovenproof pot large enough to hold meat and all the vegetables.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add enough water to pan to come about 1 1/2 inches up sides. Place pan over low heat and very slowly bring to a simmer. When water is just beginning to bubble, cover pan and transfer to oven. Cook for 4 hours. About 1 hour before meat is done, prepare vegetables.
3. To prepare vegetables, combine them in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, until they begin to soften, about
20 10 minutes. Drain well, and add to pot in which meat is cooking. Continue to cook in oven until meat is done and vegetables are tender.
4. Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter, and keep warm. Return pot of sauce to a boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add flavor booster and salt and pepper to taste.
5. To serve, cut meat into slices 1/2 inch thick and surround with vegetables. Serve sauce separately in a gravy boat.
Full recipe Yield: 8 servings.
1 7-pound boneless chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 to 10 medium potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
8 to 10 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
8 to 10 medium yellow onions, peeled, with root ends left intact
1 to 2 tablespoons flavor booster such as Gravy Master, or 1/4 cup glace de veau or reduced beef stock.
Watch this space for use of the leftovers. We have plenty!
Reheated a portion straight and served for lunch with some of the separately saved gravy.
For lunch this time, I chopped the potatoes, onions and carrot and mixed with the gravy, and served with reheated meat chunks.
Dinner for one (C is in Ohio)
I still had some meat and onions left.
I chopped the meat and onions, added 1/4 cup white wine and cooked that down until almost dry. Added a 6-ounce can of spicy V8 Juice and cooked until saucy. Served over noodles. Yum.