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
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!