When cold weather arrives, there’s nothing better than a comforting pot roast simmering in the oven to warm you up. I know many of you have had to endure a very brutal winter and bone chilling temperatures. Believe me, you have all of my sympathy. So much so that I made my husband promise I would never have to be cold again and we follow the sun to Florida for the winter. But occasionally it even gets cold down in southern Florida. A couple of evenings our temperatures dropped down into the thirties, which is cold for this area. Those temperatures may sound warm to you if you’re in New England, Boston or Canada. However, I think that you might be surprised to learn that there are many families here, such as the ones who pick our Florida crops, such winter tomatoes, oranges and strawberries, that have no heat in their homes, much less insulation, which we all take for granted.
As you can see, this pot roast has a thick rich tomato sauce, which is perfect over creamy mashed potatoes. Some people might call it tomato gravy. However, it’s different from our normal recipe which contains chunks of simmered carrots, onions, and tomatoes. I suggest that you strain the sauce if it ends up a bit runny as ours did. While we did enjoy this version of pot roast and it really took the chill off of, personally I like my old pot roast recipe, Boeuf a la Mode from Louie Diat’s French Country Cooking for Americans, better. Louis Diat was the French Chef at the Ritz Hotels in Paris and London for years. When Cesar Ritz opened the new Ritz-Carlton in New York, he sent Diat to the US to be the Chef and it was there that he created the potato leek soup we now know as French vichyssoise. Louie Diat’s beef a la mode recipe is strictly country French cooking and a bit old fashioned. While his recipe is certainly not as fancy as this new one, I found the tomato sauce in this recipe a bit too rich and “tomato-e” for me. It might be because I’ve come down with a cold and my taste buds are off. That being said, the thing I did learn from this recipe was Ina’s suggestion of adding a splash of red wine before serving to give it an edge really worked. I’ve definitely taken note of that and will try that in the future with other red wine sauces. One more great tip from Ina.
We used a bottom round roast as opposed to the prime boneless beef chuck called for. I think it’s a shame to use prime beef when it’s going to be simmered for a long time. As with any long simmering dish such as this, resting in the refrigerator overnight is highly recommended. And don’t forget that splash of red wine just before serving.
Company Pot Roast
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten – serves 8
1 (4 to 5-pound) prime boneless beef chuck roast, tied (we used a bottom round roast)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed & finely chopped
2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy, plus a splash before serving
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 branches fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 branches fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper. Dredge the whole roast in flour, including the ends. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear the other side and then turn and sear the ends. This should take 4 to 5 minutes for each side. Remove the roast to a large plate.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees F internally. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees F after about an hour to keep the sauce at a simmer.
At this point, if you have time, let the pot roast come to room temperature and allow it to sit in the refrigerator, covered, overnight. Meals such as these benefit from sitting overnight. When ready to proceed, skim off as much fat as possible and reheat gently at 325 degrees F until it is heated through.
Remove the roast to a cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until smooth. Pour the puree back into the pot, place on the stovetop over low heat, and return the sauce to a simmer. Place 2 tablespoons flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Add a splash of red wine before serving to give the sauce a nice edge, then taste for seasonings. Remove the strings from the roast and slice the meat. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme and serve warm with the sauce spooned over. Excellent with mashed potatoes to fully take advance of the sauce.