Pot roast may be out of favor and the flavors may be considered old-fashioned in some households, but still, it’s fun and delicous to cook this mainstay of a dish. What I’ve learned over many years of cooking is that although it may be important to learn and follow a recipe, sometimes; what is equally important, or more so, is to imput your creative flare for the dish. When you do this, as many cooks do, you’re creating a moniker, your own style. It’s an art project, one which you bloomed, brough to fruition! It’s eatable art in the kitchen, something to be proud of, show off, as many cooks enjoy doing.
This approach is something I’ve been doing for years, and which can be observed in the section of Tips and Tweaks in many of the recipes in my cookbook: Nourished: A Memoir of Cooking and the Arts. Basically, you learn techniques, different methods, and you apply t hem to varying ingredients which may differ from the initial recipe, but you’ve learned the techniques, and I’ve discovered that you can naturally adjust the ingredients which you prefer for you and your guests.
In this particular recipe, instead of beef, the cook could substitute another protein such as ground pork, large cut up pieces of pork loin, whole chicken or turkey, parts cut up. The fowl can be with or without bones, or with or without skin. Make adjustments, modifications as you like. Trust some of your hunches, and look at recipes from a different angle, go deep into it, reflect, uncover the essence of what you want to enjoy at the table. And too good cooking, like other crafts and art, takes experience and practice.
The same idea of making changes to the protein in a recipe look at other ingredients, like seasonings, broths, vegetable choices, selection for starches, etc. Also, you may need to pay attention to diet restrictons. Sometimes too, you may want to eliminate an ingredient all together!
INGREDIENTS SERVES 4-6
3 1/2 – 4 pounds boneless beef chuck, some extra fat removed, tied if necessary
4 medium carrots, chopped, divided
3 celery sticks, chopped, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 small onion, cut in quarters
2-3 Tbsp vegetable, canola or olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 – 1 cup water, if necessary
3 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
2 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 In a small bowl mix the flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper. Let the roast come to room temperature. Pat it dry well with a papertowel. Sprinkle the above mixture evenly all over the roast. Heat a large, heavy pot to medium-high with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the roast and brown it well on all sides for about 4-6 minutes per side. At each side let the roast stay in one place, do not move it around for several minutes. This will help it sear nicely. If fat begins to smoke, reduce the heat. And too, add a bit more oil, if necessary. Once golden all around, remove the meat to a large plate, set aside. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2 Add 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and the small chopped onion. Stir in the sugar. Cook on medium heat and stir the pot occasionally for 10-12 minutes as the vegetables brown and turn translucent. After the 12 minutes, add the garlic, turn the heat down, and cook about one more minute. Push aside most of the vegetables and add the tomato paste. Stir it around for a minute or two, then combine it with the vegetables. Add the roast back in the pot, tossing in any accumulating juices. Add the broth, making sure the level of the liquid rises half way up the roast. If necessary, add some water. Add the worchestershire sauce and more salt and pepper. Important: keep most of the roast or close to half of it submerged in the liquid. Bring the pot to a boil. Add the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes and place the pot, covered, in the oven.
3 Every thirty minutes turn the meat over. After 2 hours add the one remaining celery stalk, the remaining two carrots, the onion cut in quarters and the wine. Here too, make sure the vegetables are submerged in the liquid. Add the herb seasoning. Keep the roast covered. Cook about another 2 hours, until a sharp knife slips in and out of the meat easily and the vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings.
4 Remove the roast and strain out the vegetables to a plate, cover and keep warm. Remove t he bay leaves. Let the liquid simmer for about 5-10 minutes and reduce by about half or more; use for gravy, if desired.
5 To thicken the gravy, keep the liquid hot. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of cold water until smooth, no lumps. It may be slightly thick too, but no problem. Gradually stir this into the hot liquid until blended. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring often, boil about 1-2 minutes, reduce the heat. Be patient, it will thicken. Keep it warm, stirring occasionally and the gravy will be ready to serve with the roast and vegetables when it reaches the consistency you like. Cut and remove the strings from the roast, if they are still intact; serve in slices, or small hunks since the meat may be falling apart.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- Instead of Worchestershire sauce, use soy sauce or Maggie Seasoning Salt.
- Try kohlrabi or fennel for the root vegetables, but be sure to cut them in small pieces and cook them well, since they are dense and require more and longer cooking. Add them at step 3. Also for more taste and color, add 5-10 ounces of raw spinach in the last half hour of cooking, also at step 3.
- Serve the roast, vegetables and gravy with mashed potatoes, noodles or plain rice.
- Instead of the two onions, use leeks, but toss the dark green ends, about 4-6 inches, wash thoroughly and cut in quarter inch circles. Use one leek for the first part of the recipe, and the other at step 3.
- Use flour instead of cornstarch to thicken the gravy. With flour you’ll need a little more of it than with the cornstarch because the cornstarch is stronger, has more density.
- If you have extra gravy, refrigerate it for a few days. Then, skim off and toss any fat which has accumulated on top and freeze the remaining delicious sauce. Use in soups, stir fries or as extra flavor for cooked meat and vegetable dishes.