The table as the gravitational center of our lives.

Classic Pot Roast


“Being American is to eat a lot of beef steak, and boy, we’ve got a lot more beef steak than any other country, and that’s why you ought to be glad you’re an American.  And people have started looking at these big hunks of bloody meat on their plates, you know, and wondering what on Earth they think they’re doing.” -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., American writer and satirist

I’ve just begun working as a private chef for a lovely household in Manhattan, and they emailed me over the weekend to ask for pot roast this week.  I was thrilled by this request, as this is a recipe I’ve been dying to do for RadioGastronomy for quite some time and suddenly I had the perfect reason to do it!  Pot roast is a universal in this country, to be sure, but I think pretty much everyone would be happy to be served a juicy, tender piece of beef that’s been slow-cooked for hours and a big yummy pile of creamy mashed potatoes.  Unless, of course, you happen to be of the vegetarian persuasion, in which case…..this is just not the post for you!

There’s a great retro, Americana, 50′s housewife feeling to this dish.  I just imagine Donna Reed in her little apron and heels serving this to her perfect family on her perfect Levittown-like street in perfect black and white.  As un-PC as it may be in 2009, I will happily admit that I have these types of fantasies in the kitchen, my imagination pirouetting around the stove in a full skirt, 1950′s domestic sitcom music playing, everything smelling wonderful.  I love that food can conjure these images, even if they are ridiculous and make me seem like a weirdo Stepford Wife.

This dish is the ultimate Sunday dinner.  It has a way of filling the entire house with warmth and aroma, and really creating a certain mood.  Share it with people you love.  :)


For the braise:

Vegetable oil

1 beef chuck roast, about 3-4 lbs., trimmed of excess fat and tied (the butcher can do this for you if you ask!)

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks about 1/2″ in size

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks about 1/2″ in size

2 celery stalks, cut into chunks about 1/2″ in size

1/4 cup red wine (something you are willing to drink, please!)

1 32 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

Water or unsalted beef stock

Bay leaf

Sprig of thyme

Handful of parsley stems

Mushroom trimmings

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1 tsp. juniper berries

For the garniture:

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into evenly-sized chunks (the size here is really up to you, as long as they are cut evenly so they cook evenly)

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into evenly-sized chunks

12 pearl onions, soaked in water for about 15 minutes to help release skins and then peeled and left whole

8-10 large white button mushrooms, peeled and quartered (use stems and peelings for the braise)

4 tbsp. butter

3 tsp. sugar

Handful of parsley leaves, rinsed well, dried, and chopped fine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mashed potatoes:

4 yukon gold potatoes, rinsed, peeled, quartered, and reserved in a bowl full of water

2-3 tbsp. butter

1/3 cup sour cream


1 tbsp. chopped chives

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper


For the braise:

1.  Put a large dutch oven or soup pot over high heat with just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  While the pan and oil are heating up, season the roast generously with salt and pepper.

2.  When the oil is nice and hot, sear the roast on all sides, making sure to develop a nice brown crust on all sides and the ends.  (You will notice little brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan.  This is good, we like those, but don’t let them burn.  Turn down the heat a bit if you notice it starting to happen.  If they do burn, rinse out the pan and start over with the searing process.)  Once the meat is nice and browned everywhere, remove from the pan and reserve on a plate and dump the excess oil and fat from the pan.

3.  Add a tiny bit more vegetable oil and return the pot to the fire over medium high heat with the browned bits still on the bottom.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and stir to coat with the oil.  Allow to cook until the vegetables begin to caramelize and develop a golden-brown color, about 5 minutes or so.  At this stage, add the red wine and scrape up all of the bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Allow the wine to reduce until only a tablespoon or so of liquid is left in the pan.

4.  Return meat to the pan, and immediately add the can of crushed tomatoes and enough water or stock to come about half-way up the sides of the meat.  Add bay leaf, sprig of thyme, parsley stems, mushroom trimmings, peppercorns, and juniper berries.  Bring to a boil and then bring down to a simmer.  When the liquid is nicely and gently bubbling, cover the pot, leaving a small vent, and leave on the stove to braise for about 5 hours, or until meat is juicy and fork-tender.  Every 30 minutes or so, turn the meat and ladle the braising liquid over it to moisten.  Also use this opportunity to skim away as much fat and foam as possible from the surface of the liquid.

5.  When the 3 hours are up, remove the meat from the pan and reserve on a clean plate to rest.  Strain the braising liquid into a bowl and discard the solids.  Rinse out the pot thoroughly and pour the strained liquid back in.  Put the liquid back on the stove over high heat and reduce until the desired consistency is reached.  Continue to skim as much grease, fat, and foam from the surface as possible.  When desired consistency is achieved, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add prepared garniture (instructions below) to reheat briefly, and at the last minute stir in the chopped parsley.

For the garniture:

1.  While the meat is braising, prepare the garniture.  In a sauté pan, place the peeled pearl onions, a tsp. of sugar, a tbsp. of butter, and enough water to come about 1/4 of the way up the sides of the onions.  Place pan on the stove over medium-low heat with a lid.  When the water is almost totally evaporated and the onions are tender, remove the lid and sauté the onions until they develop a nice, rich brown color, tossing continuously.  If the pan gets too dried out and it seems like the onions will burn, add a tiny bit of water and return it to the fire.  Reserve prepared onions in a bowl.

2.  Repeat the above process for the carrot, and then for the parsnip.

3.  Rinse out the pan, and add another tbsp. of butter, and a bit of vegetable oil if necessary.  Add the mushrooms and sauté over medium heat until nicely golden brown.  Reserve with the onions, carrots, and parsnips.

For the mashed potatoes:

1.  Fill a saucepan with the peeled and quartered potatoes and cover with cold water.  Put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 10-15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and put back in the still-hot pot to dry out for a few minutes.

2.  Put dried potatoes through a ricer or mash with a hand masher.  Add butter and sour cream and stir until incorporated evenly.  Add milk a little bit at a time until desired consistency is achieved.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve:

1.  When the meat has rested for at least 5 minutes and all of the other components are ready and warm, remove the butcher string from the roast and slice the roast into pieces about 1/4″ thick.  Arrange a few slices of meat on a plate and top with a few spoonfuls of the vegetable garnish and sauce.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a bit of chopped chive.

Yield: This would easily feed a family of 4 generously, with leftovers to spare

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One Response Subscribe to comments

  1. Rochelle

    I’m sitting in the computer lab at FCI, and despite all of the food in my general vicinity, the only thing I want to eat right now is THAT.

    Oct 26, 2009 @ 4:13 pm