Pot roast is always welcome, but particularly now, when money is extra tight. Using an inexpensive cut of beef, pot roast is the essence of comfort-warming, filling and intensely satisfying.
Despite the diversity of pot roast recipes, there are some universal secrets. Choosing the right meat is top of the list. This is not the time to reach into your wallet for expensive, tender cuts of meat. Instead, select a thick cut (1 to 2 inches thick) from the beef chuck (shoulder) with or without the bone, frequently called a chuck roast. This tough cut of meat, when cooked right, transforms into tender succulence.
Searing the meat is an essential step in developing deep, rich flavor. This means sautéing the meat in a very hot pan until it is dark brown. For more flavor, sauté all the vegetables until they are light brown. Finally, add enough flavorful liquid (beef broth and wine) to almost cover the meat. This keeps it moist, allows the flavors to mingle and also produces lots of gravy. After that, it is all about low and slow. Cooking the pot roast in a 300F oven for several hours allows the meat to soften until it almost falls apart. Patience, patience, patience.
At the very end, stir in a cornstarch slurry, which will thicken the delicious gravy. Remember, pot roast is a braised meat and a vehicle for many different flavorings like herbs and spices, beers, wines, cider, various vegetables and even fruits. Let loose and search for the combination that will eventually be your family's signature pot roast.
Story and recipe by Chris Koetke, dean of the School of Culinary Arts, Kendall College, Chicago, Ill.
- Choose an inexpensive chuck roast and trim beef of all visible fat.
- Brown beef in oil to enhance the flavor.
- Sauté vegetables and mushrooms to caramelize and bring out flavors.
- Add tomato sauce, broth, and wine to cover meat and vegetables. (If desired, use use beef broth with a splash of balsamic vinegar instead of wine.)
- Serve pot roast and gravy over potatoes or toast to soak up the abundant sauce.