Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yankee Pot Roast

There are several memorable Sunday dinners that my grandmother and mother used to make and Yankee pot roast was among them.  I declare, there were few meals that beckoned more heartily or alluringly than a pot roast in the oven.  We'd gather in the kitchen to breath in the deep aromas or beef and onions and carrots and potatoes, occasionally lifting the cover of the roasting pan in hopeful expectation, and actually have to talk to each other in the meantime, smiles, while we waited for those first generous portions to be heaped onto our plates. The meat would be fall apart tender, swaddled in gravy, and accompanied with root vegetables that absorbed the beefy  juices and goodness and imparted their own rich flavors.

I should have paid more attention to the preparation and not so much the result, as different recipes I've used over the years have not quite been "it."  And then I found this one.  Take out your cast iron Dutch oven or your blue speckled roasting pan and heat your oven, this is good!  Ole Sweetie-Pi, who is  normally a finicky and light eater, ate big portions of this, and covetously guarded the leftovers. 

Yankee Pot Roast

1 bone-in chuck roast, 4-5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat (sometimes labeled pot roast or 7-bone chuck)
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons dried thyme or 6 sprigs fresh
2 bay leaves
3 ½ cups water or half chicken stock, half water (do not use beef stock)
2 tablespoons tomato paste

8 -10 small onions
5 carrots cut in 1-2 inch pieces
1 pound red potatoes or larger white potatoes in chunks

Pat the beef dry (helps it to brown) and generously salt and pepper it.  Place the meat in a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over high heat with a little oil.  Sear the meat on both sides.  Remove the meat from the pan and pour off the oil. 

Reduce heat to medium, return the pan back to the heat.  Add the  chopped carrot,  celery, onion, and garlic, with a little oil, and cook until softened but not browned.  Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir 2 to 3 minutes.

Return meat to the pot and add the water/stock, tomato paste and herbs.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, covered tightly.  While you are bringing the pot to a simmer,  preheat oven to 325*F.  Place the covered pot in the oven and bake for 2 hours.  Check the meat at the end of one hour and turn the meat.  If it is not covered by liquid or if the liquid is too thick, add additional water.  The consistency should be like thin gravy.

At 2 to  2 1/4 hours, add the remaining vegetables. From here, the time varies, depending on their size, but plan on another hour of roasting.  If, at the end of  the hour the vegetables are not quite cooked, you can keep them covered in the pot, and the carryover heat should finish cooking them. 

Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.

Using a slotted spoon, move the meat and vegetables to a platter.  Skim any excess fat from the remaining  liquid.  I like to slightly thicken the gravy with a slurry of cornstarch and water, but it's not necessary.  Slice the roast before serving and top with a little of the gravy, with the extra served on the side in a gravy boat.