I realize I have been posting a lot of “basic” recipes lately—something for which I am completely unapologetic. Meatballs, cookies, muffins: while they may be ordinary, normal, everyday recipes, this is the kind of food I cook this time of year—the kind of food I crave this time of year—always, really. Every once in awhile I get carried away and make some wild recipe I’ve been dying to try, but for the most part, I make pretty homey, comforting, familiar food. Craveable food. So, when I woke up on the first day of my “spring” semester to a winter storm warning, my kids’ school already canceled, and mine closing early enough that I made the decision to stay safely at home with my kids, I decided pot roast was the only logical answer. When in doubt, make pot roast. That’s my theory. Or motto? Either way, it’s always a good choice.
Pot roast: such a terrible name for such a delicious thing. It takes like 10-20 minutes to prep, then you forget about it for hours! And it’s unbelievably inexpensive. This is probably my son’s favorite meal. He requested this and my Potato Gratin (AKA “those good cheesy potatoes”) for his birthday dinner two years in a row.
A few notes on the way I make mine:
I started adding coffee to my roasts at some point, and if I have some leftover in the coffee pot, I use it. If not, I don’t. Your roast won’t taste like coffee, but it adds something—a darkness and depth to the sauce. Also, the wine is optional. You can use red or white, or none at all. Just bulk up the liquid with more stock. Once I used a Guinness beer that we had lingering in the fridge and it was so good. Surprisingly good. Anyway, alcoholic beverages are optional, liquid is not. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a total of 4 cups liquid.
I also don’t add veggies to mine. I don’t love the texture of them after they cook for so long, and for me, it’s all about the beef and not at all about the mushy carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. I prefer to make a separate, fresh vegetable to serve on the side.
I keep it super simple: beef, salt, and pepper—and usually serve the beef with mashed potatoes and peas. It’s the perfect combo. (Really good with egg noodles too, which my kids are wild about.) This time I made polenta.
If you want to thicken the sauce and make it more gravy-like, a recipe follows. This step is optional, and completely a matter of personal preference. (I love gravy).
Here’s how I made it this time.
Simple Pot Roast
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4-5 hours
- 2 1.5 lb chuck roasts (or one big 3-4 lb roast)
- 2 1/2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup white wine (or red) (or a dark beer)
- ½ cup brewed coffee (optional)
- plenty of salt and pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 whole garlic cloves (you don’t even need to peel them)
For Beurre manié (a fancy French term for flour and butter mashed together to thicken the sauce):
- 2 tablespoons soft butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 300.
Season beef generously with salt and pepper and a drizzle of vegetable oil. Heat a heavy bottomed pan until it’s very hot. Add beef and allow to get very brown before flipping and browning other side. When I’m using two roasts, I do this in batches.
Remove meat to a plate and pour off any excess fat from the pan. Add liquids, bay leaves, garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Return meat and any juices to pot and place in oven. Cook, partially covered for 4-5 hours until meat is extremely tender.
Carefully remove meat to a platter, and skim off as much fat as you can from the liquid in the pot. (if you have a fat separator/gravy separator contraption, now is a good time to use it!)
If you want to thicken the sauce, place pot over medium heat, mash together the butter and flour and whisk the paste into the boiling liquid. Allow to bubble until it reaches your desired thickness, a few minutes is usually sufficient. Taste for seasoning. I never add extra salt, between the saltiness of the stock, and the salt on the beef I find it’s not necessary, but just check. Add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Before adding meat back to sauce, remove any large chunks of fat, and break meat up a bit. I don’t like to shred it, but feel free to shred if that’s what you like. I prefer to break it into fairly large pieces. Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta, egg noodles, or just some good crusty bread and any veggie of your choice. Peas and corn are always a hit around here.