One of the few meals that I remember from my childhood that did not belong to my mom or dad was pot roast. A family friend made an amazing pot roast and I always ate it over match stick egg noodles. Growing up, it was one of the few meals which focused on red meat that I would eat.
When I was working on my cookbook a couple of years ago [still an on going project that I hope to pick up again soon], I went over to her house and asked her to tell me about the recipe and I took notes as she talked. I definitely went home that day and made the pot roast and it was amazing.
I have only made pot roast a handful of times as an adult. Each time I pick up a chuck roast at the butcher I am overcome with fear. The last time I made pot roast, during a recent snow and ice storm I realized that pot roast actually scared me. How crazy, right? It was one of the only recipes I made that actually made me uncomfortable and was definitely not something I was good or used to making. The thing that always gets to me is around 4 hours into the crock pot cycle I start wondering …. Is this meat going to be tender? Is it going to be falling apart (in a good way!) when I’m ready to eat it? Is it going to be too tough? Have I just wasted all of this money and time and I am going to be left with nothing eatable for dinner? I really need to have more faith in the crock pot, the meat and myself.
Finally this time around I think I have overcome my fear for the next time I make pot roast. I finally have a way of cooking a pot roast that is mine, and a good, reliable recipe. Let’s get down to business:
First of all – when you are expecting a snow storm, there is really no better time to put a pot roast on. If you are going to be home all day you have time to do the first couple of steps which to me are so important and you have the benefit of being in a house that is cooking a pot roast all day – trust me, it is pretty great.
A couple of days before the storm I picked up a two pound organic beef chuck roast from Wegmans and a little rustic, crusty loaf of bread to go with it. I also grabbed a box of beef stock. I really love Wegmans organic beef stock. I had everything else at home and I was keeping this recipe pretty simple.
On the day of the storm I woke up and we already had several inches of snow on the ground. I made some coffee and started getting set up for the day. I got out my pan and crock pot. I got the chuck roast out of the refrigerator and let it sit out for a few minutes so it was not completely cold when I put it in the hot pan. I grabbed an onion, my cutting board and my knife. I cut a large onion into big pieces and put it aside.
Here is one thing you should never skip before making a pot roast – always take that five to ten minutes to brown it on both sides in a pan. It sears the meat and keeps the juices in and will leave you with tender meat after six hours of cooking.
Here is what I did to end up with a great pot roast on a snowy day – it was a great dinner!
2 pounds of chuck roast (I use organic grass fed beef)
1 T canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar *
2 T balsamic vinegar glaze (I get this from Trader Joe’s)
1 t Garlic powder
1 t red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Zest of one orange *
Heat up one tablespoon of canola oil in your large pan. Once oil is hot, add chuck roast and cook on one side for three minutes or until brown. (I covered my pan during this step, but you don’t have to.) Carefully turn over and cook on the other side 2 – 3 minutes until it browns. Once you are happy with how brown your roast is transfer it to your crock pot.
Add 3 1/2 cups of beef stock to your crock pot. Turn crock pot on low and set for 6 hours.
In the pan that you have browned your roast in, add your chopped up onions and sauté until they are translucent. Add about 1/4 cup of beef stock if you need more liquid. Add a small pinch of salt to the pan while cooking the onions.
In a large measuring cup add your balsamic vinegar and your glaze and the remaining beef stock (approxinately 1/4 c if you added some to your onions) whisk in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Once the mixture has come together, add to the crock pot. Add onions to the crock pot. Close the lid and walk away!
My husband and I always tend to check on the roast every half an hour or so. We stir things around, etc. Checking once an hour is probably a good idea, but I don’t think you have to.
The night we made the roast we ended up letting it cook for longer than six hours as we fed baby, bathed her and put her to bed. The roast was so tender and flavorful when we sat down for dinner. We had every intention on making mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes to go with the roast. But like many nights in our lives now, we ran out of time and I was hungry so to save time we made egg noodles to go with the roast – which is how I prefer to eat it anyway. We chopped up carrots and mixed it in with the roast. We ate a bowl of spinach on the side as a salad and a way to get more vegetables and color in with dinner.
I cannot lie – I was really relieved when I got the pot roast out of the crock pot and saw that it was basically falling apart. When I tasted the pot roast and it was tender and flavorful I was so happy that I hadn’t spent ALL DAY cooking something that was not worth my time. It was exactly the opposite – it was the perfect dinner to enjoy with a glass of red wine during a evening we were snowed in due to a winter storm!
* When I was googling pot roast and trying to figure out the best cooking methods, I came across a recipe by Rachel Hollis and I loved her idea of balsamic vinegar and the zest of an orange. You can find her recipe here.