February 2, 2021
It started snowing yesterday afternoon and is still coming down here at the Lyceum. A foot and a half of snow outside calls for comfort food and so today I’m making pot roast. Pot roast is slow food. The total time to make this recipe is about six hours, but much of that time the roast is simmering, so you can sit back enjoy a glass of wine, read a book or listen to some music, and watch the snow fall.
Pot roast is best served with vegetables, but the mistake some cooks make is that they add the vegetables to the pot roast too early. This leads to mushy, unpleasant vegetables. This can be improved upon by using two groups of vegetables, cooking vegetables and eating vegetables. The cooking vegetables are cut small and added at the beginning, flavoring the roast and the gravy. The eating vegetables are added near the end and cooked gently. Potatoes are a traditional pot roast vegetable, but rather than boiling them with the roast, we make a separate batch of mashed potatoes. If you prefer boiled potatoes just add them when you add the rest of the vegetables.
There are many different meats that can be used to make a pot roast. I normally make mine with brisket, but there were none at the market this time. Maybe my neighbors bought them all up in preparation for the nor’easter. Fortunately there was a three and a half pound chuck roast, boastfully wearing a yellow sticker reading “POT ROAST”. I prefer brisket because of the high fat content, but for some that might be off-putting. If you prefer leaner, but in my opinion less flavorful, meat, go for the chuck. (but don’t)
Many recipes say that browning the meat is optional. This is as true as saying salt is optional. You don’t have to brown the meat, but it certainly won’t be as good. The amount of flavor it imparts in just a little effort means you absolutely should not skip browning. Onion, carrot, and celery provide the flavor base for the gravy. They are chopped and sautéed, along with some garlic. Once they have cooked down a bit, a cup of red wine is added and cooked away. Finally, the meat is returned to the pot; thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf is added; and all is drenched with beef stock. It is brought to a boil and then covered and kept at a simmer for four hours with the eating vegetables (We are choosing green beans, carrots, and pearl onions.) added for the final hour.
At this point, the meat should be incredibly tender. Plate it along with the eating vegetables and strain the gravy. We like to thicken the gravy with flour and butter, making it richer as well. The end result is a delicious meal fit for a cold winter’s day and the knowledge that you have some remarkable leftovers waiting for you if the snow doesn’t let up.