pot roast

A Perfect Pot Roast

The holidays are fast approaching and I am setting an intention to truly appreciate and enjoy every day with my family. I know, it’s kind of a tall order but a moment of grace at the girl’s bedtime the other night led me to a realization. As they were getting ready at a record-breaking slow speed, I found myself in an all too familiar state of extreme irritation waiting for teeth to be brushed,  pj’s to be put on, stories to be read and snuggle time to be over so I could move on to whatever I felt was so important at the time. I know those of you who have ever had small children to get settled for bed can relate because I’ve commiserated with many of you about it. As I struggled to calm myself down, I took a few deep breaths and then it hit me. This is it. My girls are almost 7 years old and although I’m looking forward to watching them grow into young ladies, they will never be this little again. The times we are sharing right now are what I dreamed about for years before they were born and will undoubtedly turn into some of my fondest memories. You could say it was my own “Cats in the Cradle” moment, albeit far less dramatic. So, I shifted my focus and truly enjoyed listening to Ella read the entire “A Fly Went By” book. Really, I did. And, since then, I’ve been able to keep that shift in focus for the most part. Sometimes all it takes is changing your mind.

(Okay, I have to admit, as I’ve been writing this Scooter (dog) threw up on the carpet, the girls are fighting for my attention, and I have a mountain of laundry on my bed calling me to be put away (I detest laundry as much as I love cooking) so I’m not sure how this is really going to go but, by golly, I’m gonna give it a try!)

Where does pot roast fit into this? It doesn’t really, but it does allow you to prepare it ahead of time then relax and enjoy your family or your company. This is a recipe I found years ago and I think it’s perfect so I haven’t messed with it like I normally do with other people’s recipes. Pot roast resides permanently in the ultimate comfort food category so, if you haven’t made it before, it’s probably time you learned. It’s simple but requires a few crucial steps like caramelizing the meat (fancy for browning) so read on and you’ll have perfect pot roast for your next family meal. Serve it with a green salad and homemade ranch dressing for a complete meal.

Classic Beef Pot Roast 
from Jeanne Thiel Kelley, Cooking Light, October 2006

(yields 8 – 10 servings)

1 TB olive oil
1 3 lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion (I used 1 large sweet onion)
1 cup dry red wine
1 (14 oz) can fat-free, less-sodium beef broth (or boxed beef stock)
4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots (cut into large chunks)
2 pounds gold potatoes (cut in large chunks)

fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Take the chill off the roast by allowing it to rest at room temperature for about an hour. Before browning, thoroughly dry the roast with paper towels to remove as much moisture as you can. This will allow a good sear and prevent it from steaming. The caramelization of the meat is crucial to building the flavor of the pot roast.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven (shown) on medium/high heat. Test it with a tiny drop of water before adding the oil, it should sizzle and evaporate if it’s hot enough. Add the oil then, carefully,

lay the roast in the pan. I use tongs and oven mitts so the sizzle doesn’t burn my hands… yes, I learned the hard way.

Allow it to cook about 5 minutes per side until you get a beautiful brown sear. Meat should always release from the pan easily when it’s done browning, if it’s sticking, leave it alone because it’s probably not finished browning/caramelizing. Tongs work best for handling the roast.
Chop your onion and garlic while the roast is browning.

Once browned on all sides, transfer to a large plate or platter and set aside.

You will have lovely little brown bits left in the pan. Add the onions and saute until tender, 8 – 10 minutes.

Return roast to the pan and add wine (I like Costco’s Kirkland Cabernet, it’s cheap but still drinkable, great for cooking),

broth or stock,

thyme sprigs, garlic and bay leaf.

Stir ingredients around a little so they commingle nicely. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, chop your carrots and potatoes. Remove roast from oven, add carrots and potatoes, and cook an additional hour, until veggies and roast are tender. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

My brother, Patrick, used to play his guitar and sing to me Loggins and Messina’s “House at Pooh Corner” starting when he was a teenager and I was probably 4 or 5 (I know, pretty sweet). When I heard “Return to Pooh Corner” for the first time I got very emotional even though I didn’t have kids of my own yet. It so beautifully describes being able to go back to that magical place of pretend with your own children. When I remember to pay attention, I appreciate that’s where I am now with my girls, fleeting as it is…

“Believe me if you can I’ve finally come 
Back to the house at Pooh corner by one
What do you know there’s so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh.”
Kenny Loggins