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It is Totally the Year of the Pot Roast

January 9, 2008

Pot Roast

One of my favorite food bloggers, The Pioneer Woman a. k. a. Ree, declared 2008 as the year of the pot roast, inspiring me to try my hand at one mid-western culinary stand-by I had yet to tackle. Mr. X could hardly believe that the simple perfection of a pot roast had never graced my kitchen, and to be honest, I could hardly believe it either. (And to be doubly honest, it still hasn’t; I made this at his house.) It’s not that I’ve never had pot roast before. I mean, I was born in South Dakota. But my mom wasn’t really one for cooking up huge chunks of meat, so it certainly wasn’t a staple dinner of my childhood. And I’m not really one for the huge chunks of meat, either. It never occurred to me to buy a huge beef shoulder or whatever it was I bought and throw it in a pot. Trust me, it will occur to me in the future. Often.

The beauty of the pot roast is twofold: It takes about three hours of oven time to properly cook a huge chunk of meat, enough time for your kitchen (or entire apartment, if you live in the city) to become warm and delicious smelling. This is splendid during cold, cold winters. And because you’re pretty much just leaving it in the oven for those three hours, the amount of effort you actually put into what amounts to a substantial pile of food is minimal. I like minimal. Oh wait, and there’s a third beauty: A pot roast doresn’t require a ton of expensive ingredients. I like inexpensive.

Because this was my very first pot roast, I wanted to do things as simply as possible. Sure I could have gotten crazy with the bacon and sugar and spices and whatnot, as Bon Appetit suggests in their February issue. But as much as I like bacon, I wanted to start with the basics: meat, carrots, onions, red wine, and broth. Alright, alright, I did throw a few sprigs of lemon thyme in there, but otherwise, simple, simple, simple. And while I was a little nervous, as I usually am when cooking animal bits (I don’t know why it just seems so much more daunting than a stalk of broccoli!), it turned out better than I expected. So good, in fact, that I might have to break with tradition and actually cook the same thing twice.

Really Simple Pot Roast

I pretty much followed Ree’s directions to the T, so you could go read her far more amusing (and picturesque) instructions, if you want.

  • 2 onions
  • about 8 small carrots (I managed to find organic carrots still attached to their leafy greens, yay)
  • olive oil
  • a big chunk of meat (Heh. I found a beef shoulder, which wasn’t what the butcher recommended but looked better to me: more marbling, small enough for two people, flatter, and it was about 2 1/2 pounds.)
  • about 1/2 c. red wine
  • about 1 – 1 1/2 c. beef stock
  • a few sprigs of lemon thyme (or rosemary, or regular thyme, or whatever strikes your fancy)
  • some flour, if you want to get fancy with some gravy making afterwards

Now, you might be questioning the absence of potatoes from this list. Mr. X sure did. But when I saw that Ree served hers with mashed potatoes, which just might be one of my favorite things in the entire universe, I decided to buck tradition, just like her. I didn’t do anything too crazy with the mashed potatoes, either, just your basic yukon golds with some butter and heavy cream and salt. Perfection. I believe I shared my insights into mashed potato greatness previously. I stick by these precepts.

As for the pot roast, here’s what you do: First, cut the onions in half, and cut the carrots into pieces about an inch or two long. You don’t have to peel the carrots, but I would recommend getting the papery skin off the onion. Hee. Then take your big chunk o’ meat and generously salt and pepper it on both sides. Rub the salt and pepper in a bit with your hands. Then wash your hands so you’re not all gross.

Browned onions

Preheat the oven to 275F. Heat up a bit of olive oil over medium high heat, maybe about one or two tablespoons, in a deep, oven safe pot with a lid. Put the onions in, cut side down and let them cook for about four minutes, or until they get nice and browned. Then flip them over with some tongs and let them brown on the rounded side a bit. Take them out and set them on a plate. Then add the carrots to the same pot, and do the same: let them cook for about four or five minutes until they start to brown, then toss ’em around and let ’em cook some more. Take them out and put them on the plate with the onions.

Onions and carrots

Now, grab your meat with some tongs and makes sure you have a nice grasp, because it’s probably kinda heavy. Add it to the hot, oily, onion-y, carroty pot and let it brown on one side, for about four minutes again. Then flip it over and brown it on the other side. I, yet again, took Ree’s advice and also browned it on the narrow edges, which was kind of tricky because the oil was splattering me and I’m a weakling. I had trouble with a 2 pound piece of meat, that’s how much of a weakling I am. Yikes.

Once the meat is nice and browned on all sides, remove it, too, to a plate (probably not the onion and carrot place, unless you have really big plates). Then add the red wine to the pot to deglaze, my new favorite cooking thing to do. Use a whisk or something to scrape up the meaty, onion-y, carroty bits from the bottom. Let the wine cook over medium high heat for a few minutes while you scrape, until it starts to thicken just a smidge and maybe reduce down a little. Then add your meat back in, and add broth. You don’t want to cover the meat, just add enough to get some liquid in the pan. Ree recommended adding enough to come halfway up the sides of the meat. Then add your onions and carrots back in, as well as some herby herbs of your choosing. Put a lid on that pot and toss it in the oven. And let it cook for about three hours. You can pretty much leave it in there until you’re ready to eat, I think, but a good rule of thumb is an hour a pound. I ended up cooking it for about three and half hours, if not more, because I underestimated the time it would take the potatoes to cook. As usual. It was lovely, and in fact, could maybe have even stayed there longer, if I had been more willing to sacrifice the carrots.

If you want to make lovely gravy with the rich, delicious liquid leftover, just take about 3/4 of a cup of the liquid and remove it to a smaller saucepan. Then add some flour, or get fancy with a slurry, and whisk it all about over some heat. I guess Mr. X did this part and I’m not entirely sure what he did, but it was great. You’ll probably be able to figure it out. This cooking stuff isn’t difficult or anything.

So pot roast was something of a success I think, and I may even be more willing to experiment in the future. I do love bacon, after all, and maybe I’m becoming less afraid of the big ol’ hunks of red meat. Besides, my housemates didn’t get any pot roast, and we can’t have that, can we?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2008 3:57 pm

    This looks delicious. I cannot wait to try it!

  2. Mom permalink
    January 16, 2008 12:36 am

    Do you not remember Grandma’s pot roast? She makes it every time she comes for a visit! She’d be proud of you!

  3. Gramma Jeri permalink
    January 17, 2008 5:04 pm

    Hi and I am proud of you; yes Pot Roast is definitely our favorite meal in the cold of winter…and the aroma is undescribable !! keep up the good work. love ya lots, Gramma

  4. January 24, 2008 9:50 pm

    I don’t think it’s the recipe’s fault or your fault. I think the meat was a little fatty. But my hubby to be does not like pot roast (can you imagine?) so I won’t be trying the recipe again. I will however be checking your blog for more recipes!

  5. Cheryl permalink
    April 11, 2010 9:55 am

    This is the very first time i have cooked a pot raost after all these years.
    I dont know why i picked yours maybe because it said it was easy. But let me tell you after 2hours of cooking i cheated and tasted it although i had another hour or so of cooking.
    A nd let me tell you the flavor is incredible

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