The dictionary usually describes pot roast as an inexpensive, less tender cut of beef first browned, then braised very slowly in a covered pot with a little liquid resulting in a flavorful, tender piece of meat. Chuck or round cuts are most popular for this dish. It is called Yankee pot roast when vegetables are added to the pot partway through the cooking process. The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink goes a little further to say that the term ‘pot roast’ dates (in print at least) to 1881. At one time cooking meat in a covered pot was an appetizing way to cook the meat of beasts that had been working animals rather than food animals. The availability of good beef today makes pot roast a delicious and hearty dish, though lesser cuts of meat are still used. Beef brisket, bottom and top round, and chuck are the usual choices.
Yankee pot roast, with potatoes, carrots and onions added half-way through the cooking process is the recipe most of us are familiar with. The vegetables are similar to those in a New England boiled dinner, but are steamed in a combination of natural juices from the meat.
My own way of making Yankee pot roast is a combination of suggestions from two recipes along with some ideas of my own, at least as far as the added vegetables are concerned.
2-3 pound chuck roast
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1 package Lipton’s Onion Soup
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil
4-5 carrots cut into pieces
1 dozen small red, white and black potatoes
2 onions cut into quarters or 1 bag of Cipolline (Italian pearl) onions
1-2 parsnips cut into pieces
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1-2 apples peeled and cut into pieces
4-5 cups water
parsley or rosemary for garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 300°. Wash and pat dry the chuck roast. Cut the garlic cloves into slivers and making small slits in the meat, push the garlic slivers into the slits. Put the cooking oil into a cast iron skillet and let it heat. Sear the roast on both sides long enough to brown it nicely.
Place the browned roast in a roasting pan or pot (a foil roasting pan works fine), and sprinkle the onion soup over it. A portion of the soup will go into the water and that’s fine. Add some water to the roasting pan, cover with a lid, or use tin foil to cover the roasting pan and place it in the middle rack of the oven.
Total cooking time varies with the size of the roast, but it will be between 2-3 hours. During the cooking you will have to uncover the roast and add more water to the pan, keeping the liquid up to about halfway on the meat. Be sure too that the onion soup on top is not dry; the top as well should be kept moist throughout. Test the roast with a fork to determine its tenderness. Continue cooking until the roast is very tender and almost breaking apart.
Thirty to forty minutes before taking the pot roast out of the oven, uncover it and add the vegetables and cut apple, spreading them in the liquid around the roast. Recover the pan and continue cooking. Should the meat already be good and tender, take the roast out and allow the vegetables and apple to cook on their own in the liquid.
If you prefer a thicker gravy, pour some flour in a cup and add cold water, stirring until it has thinned. Add that to the gravy and cook a little longer to thicken.
Serve the roast on a platter with the vegetables and apple around it. Garnish with a sprig of parsley, or perhaps a sprig of rosemary.
Serve the pot roast and vegetables with a green salad and warm French bread. Bon appétit!