Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"No- Recipe" Pot Roast and first ever video!!

Pot Roast is one of those dishes that used to be a standard fare due to its simple preparation, tastiness, and high nutritional value.  Somewhere along the line pot roast developed a nostalgic following and became more complicated than was necessary.  So it became a comfort food made only on long winter weekends.  But your grandma's pot roast was just fine - no need to make a special trip to Williams Sonoma for new pots and 22 specialty ingredients.  I say keep it simple and enjoy it more often.  It's a one dish meal with meat, veggies, and an optional starchy vegetable.  What could be simpler on a busy weeknight?

I make my pot roast by memory and usually with what I have on hand, except the meat. I buy it fresh.  So if I'm at the grocer or the butcher and the pot roast meat looks good I'll buy it knowing that I usually have everything else at home and can make it without a lot of prep time.  My "recipe" is based on various pot roast recipes I've made over the years.  I've made it so often that I no longer need an actual written recipe and I can improvise with the ingredients.

This and a nice fresh roast is all you need!

Basic pot roast consists of either chuck roast, rump roast, or another cut of beef your butcher says will be tasty with long and low heat cooking.  Tougher cuts of meat are very flavorful and are less expensive than tender cuts. See, pot roast is economical too!  Then you need some liquid.  Water will do but using beef broth (either store bought or homemade is fine) and red wine adds a complexity to the flavor.  Some people use vinegar or Coke.  (To each his own!)  Then you need seasonings- salt, pepper and herbs.  Some recipes coat the meat with flour before browning but I find this added step to be easily skipped.  The flavor is different but both ways create an excellent meal.  All you need to complete the dish is vegetables.  Root veggies work well and onions add an excellent flavor.  But use what you have.  Potatoes give pot roast a "stick to your ribs" feeling but I'm trying to have less starch in my diet so I often leave them out.

Here's a pot roast recipe I found slipped between the pages of the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking I bought from the estate sale of a lady in my neighborhood.  I don't know if Mrs. Mather ever made this recipe but from the stains on the paper I assume she tried it at least once.  She chose to use sirloin tip roast and uses vinegar and water for the liquid.

Here are two versions of pot roast from my mother's 1951 edition of The Settlement Cookbook.   Number 1 is a simple version while number 2 adds tomatoes.  Both are pretty simple.

And here's my "no recipe" pot roast:

1 3-4 lb Chuck roast
Salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs- thyme, bay leaves, chives and parsley work well
1/2 to 3/4C Beef broth
1/2 to 3/4C Red wine
Veggies- about 3 carrots, 1/2 a large onion, 6 mushrooms
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 or 325.  (See slow cooker cooking directions below.)  Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium high heat.  Rub the herbs and salt and pepper on all sides of the roast.  Brown on all sides.  Add the liquid.  Bring to a boil. Then put the covered pot into the oven.

I thought a video would be helpful so here you go!

After at least an hour of cooking time (and about 1 hour before you plan to eat) add the vegetables.  Submerge some under the liquid if you can.  Also spoon some of the juices over the meat.  Cover and put back in the oven for an hour or more.  Cooking times can be loose based on your needs.  When I made this is was a busy night so total cooking time was about 4 hours.  2 hours is fine though.

An optional step is to boil the liquid to make the juices thicker and stronger in flavor.  Simply put the pot over a medium heat on the stove and leave uncovered until boiling.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Here's what you get!!

You can also make this pot roast in your slow cooker.  Just brown the meat with the seasonings and then put it into your slow cooker.  Add the liquid and the onion.  Turn your slow cooker to low for 8 or more hours or high for at least 4 hours.  If you're home add the other veggies during the last hour or 2.  You can add them in the beginning of the cooking time but they may get too mushy for your liking.  If that doesn't appeal to you just have steamed veggies or a salad with the pot roast.  The taste of a slow cooker pot roast is different than one made in an oven but it's still delicious.  If you want a thicker and richer broth you can put it all back into your pot on the stove top and boil as directed above.

Here's a bit about the herbs I used:

As always the leftovers were great for lunch today.   If there's a lot of solidified fat on top of the juices you can scrape it off just as you would with refrigerated chicken or beef broth.  I find the meat juicy enough without the extra fat.

I may do more "no recipe" posts if you, dear readers, are interested.  Let me know in the comments below.  Also tell me if the videos are helpful!



  1. Great blog! I love to look through old cookbooks, recipe cards, and vintage magazines. I was reading this week that during WWII, they had paper drives and gathered up what were then vintage magazines to donate to the war effort. We're lucky anything survived!

    1. That makes sense, Kathy. I find many more magazines from the '50s than from the '40s. I bet the paper drives are a factor as well as them simply being older.

      I have subscriptions to Good Housekeeping and Family Circle that I recycle when I'm finished reading. I sometimes wonder if I should keep them for my kids!

      Thanks for commenting! :)


  2. I LOVE pot roast! Like you said, it is soo easy to make. I don't know why people think they have to make it hard. I want to say to them, "Just enjoy the flavor of the roast, people!"

    I was telling The Mister during dinner tonight (homemade Chili using Betty Crocker recipe from the original cookbook) that we need to stop by the meat market to stock up again. The ground meat from the grocery store just isn't very flavorful now that our palates have changed.

    1. I'll have to check out that chili recipe. Of course I have that cookbook! lol

      When you say "meat market" are you referring to the butcher? Our grocery store meat is pretty good but I like going to the butcher too. I also sometimes get meat from our third party CSA. They get meat, produce, and dairy from farms all over the region. I like buying local when I can but the CSA takes a little planning so I have to be prepared!

      "Just enjoy the flavor of the roast, people!" You just crack me up! I sometimes want to write in to cooking shows and tell them to relax. It's just food!


  3. How exciting to hear your voice after only reading it these past years! : ) This was a fun post. I think you know I love pot roast, especially since there are so many variations and most of them so simple! Yours looks outstanding.

  4. I had the sound muted because I'm at work so I'll have to listen later at home. Although I liked the second video of the boiling roast. It looked great!

    I used to make my roast very simple but over the years I made the preparation of it so complicated. It still tasted great but the simpler version, like yours, is fantastic enough! However, I don't like meat cooked in a slow cooker. I've given that up. My husband says he can't tell but to me the taste of beef and even chicken is different and not in a good way whether or not it's browned first. Maybe it's just my taste buds.

    1. Tsk, tsk Aileen! :)

      I'm not a big fan of chicken in the slow cooker but meat is ok. I wanted to give my readers the option because it's hard to cook something all day if you don't work from home or have flexible hours. Maybe that's why pot roast became "Sunday" food in the first place??

      Have a great weekend!


  5. How wonderfully lovely to be able to put a (beautiful) voice to an online friend's name. I adore that you created your first video and shared it here with us. I've been trying to workup the courage (woefully shy gal that I am) to do the same myself now for years. Perhaps I'll follow your lead and finally make 2014 the year I do just that.

    Big hugs & tons of happy weekend wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* Thank you very much for both of your terrific blog comments today. I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding how extra special sporting gorgeous underpinnings makes one feel.

    *PSS* Thank you as well for the thoughtful, lovely birthday wishes for my mom. Aww!

    1. Thanks, Jessica! Just for the record I had to be talked into doing videos. If it were up to my friend Michael it would have been me making the whole recipe, not just snippets, Cooking channel style. No thanks! I wear the sloppiest clothes when I'm cooking with no attention to make up or hair. But you always look beautiful! :)