Its name is odd but pot roast is prime

Posted Oct. 19, 2010, at 6:34 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:52 p.m.

As a child, when my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner, I always said pot roast. The main course was always Birthday Girl’s Choice, but for dessert we invariably had angel food cake from a packaged mix, which I eventually came to loathe. I’d beg for chocolate instead, but alas, the angel food cake was the Official Oliver Family Birthday Cake — eat it and shut up.

So perhaps it is natural that I think about pot roast as the weather cools, and I begin eyeing the calendar for my birthday early next month (which I truly don’t mind because each year qualifies me further for senior discounts). In any event, you really can’t go wrong using the set of instructions that follow to come up with a tender and tasty chunk of beef with a rich, dark, flavorful gravy.

Pot roast really is an odd name for the dish. I theorize that the term came about because it was a cut of meat called a roast that was more likely to be cooked in a pot, especially when cooking shifted from open fires and true radiant-heat roasting to stove cooking where the fire was closed up in a fire box. Traditionally, leaner, somewhat tougher cuts, like chuck that benefit from slow, moist heat are the ones designated for pot roast.

We still are pulling green peppers, some with a blush of reddish orange on them, from our garden so I used those. I also used stubby, funny shaped carrots because I sliced them up, and our own onions and garlic in this dish. I cooked potatoes to serve with them, but our little household expressed a wish that I had cooked more carrots in the braising liquid because the ones I did cook tasted so good.
Like many of our Taste Bud recipes, this is another flexible one. For example, I ended up with a 2½-pound piece of chuck, though instructions I find everywhere say to buy 5 pounds. We had enough for two and leftovers enough for at least one more meal.

Most recipes say it is nice to use red wine but I didn’t have any, so I used just beef broth. I think actually half red wine and half broth would be terrific. You can do as you wish. Thicken the gravy in any way you like. Some people like cornstarch. I usually whisk a tablespoon or two of flour into a very little water and add that. Mom used to put the flour and water in a little jar and shake it to mix it. You can cook this in a covered pan or Dutch oven in the oven or on top of the stove, if you prefer.

Pot Roast
Yields four to eight servings
2½ to 5 pounds beef chuck roast
Paprika (optional)
Vegetable oil or drippings
1 cup red wine or beef broth or combination
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 red or green bell peppers, sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2-3 carrots, sliced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300. Sprinkle the roast with paprika and heat oil or drippings in a heavy pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the meat all over and set it aside. Put the wine and-or beef stock, tomato sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and salt into the pot you browned the meat in and cook, scraping to loosen any browned-on bits. Return the meat to the pot, add bell peppers, onions, carrot and garlic. Cover the pot and put it in the oven for 4-5 hours (less time for smaller cuts).

When the roast is fork-tender, put it and the vegetables on a platter and cover to keep it warm. Add flour or cornstarch thickening to the liquid in the pot (about 2tablespoons flour in a scant quarter-cup cold water) and cook until the gravy thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Slice the roast and pour the gravy over it to serve it, or serve the gravy in a gravy boat.

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