Flying into Boston last week after a long stay in Paris, the first thing I noticed was how much colder it was. Winds were adding a blustery touch to the already freezing temperatures. When we arrived at our son’s house for the night, he had prepared a warming shepherd’s pie of root vegetables and beef topped with mashed potatoes. By the time we got to Amherst the next day, I was craving more robust dishes like this to stave off the cold. Coincidentally, my assistant Barb emailed a welcome home note, and mentioned that she was using a recipe of mine for old-fashioned pot roast, a hearty food to counter the season’s chill.
This pot roast is a favorite of mine. An inexpensive cut–a boneless chuck roast– is rubbed with crushed rosemary, basil, and red pepper flakes for extra flavor, then seared in hot oil. Next, the roast is slowly cooked several hours in the oven in an aromatic mixture of beef stock, red wine, tomatoes, and vegetables. In place of flour, some of those cooked vegetables are pureed and whisked back into the pan liquids to thicken the delicious pan gravy.
This roast is even better when prepared ahead. Make it one day (or night), put it in the fridge, and then warm it up the next. Try mashed potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts or buttered noodles and a salad of mixed greens as sides. Comfort food at its best, this dish might just warm your soul as well as your body.
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Old Fashioned Pot Roast with Rich Pan Sauce
One 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 pound boneless chuck roast
1 tbsp dried rosemary, crushed (see note)
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved and sliced onion
1 cup finely diced carrots (1/4 inch cubes)
3/4 cup finely diced celery (1/4 inch cubes)
3 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
3 bay leaves, broken in half
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups reduced-sodium beef stock
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Combine rosemary, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and rub on all sides of the roast. In a deep-sided, ovenproof pot (with a lid) over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from pot.
3. In the same pot, heat the remaining oil until hot, then add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, stock, wine, and orange juice, and bring mixture to a simmer. Return the meat to the pot; cover and roast in the oven until meat is fork-tender, basting every 30 to 40 minutes with pan juices, about 2-1/2 hours total.
4. Remove the roast to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Skim off any fat and discard. With a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of the vegetables in the pan and puree in a food processor or blender. Return pureed vegetables to the roasting pan, and place pan over high heat. Reduce by a third. If not serving immediately, return roast to pan. (Roast can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, covered, in a 350 degree preheated oven until roast is heated through and sauce is hot, about 30 minutes.)
5. To serve, cut the roast into 1/4-inch thick slices and serve topped with pan sauce and a sprinkle of parsley.
Serves 5 to 6
Note: Save time by purchasing crushed dried rosemary, rather than whole rosemary leaves that you crush yourself. Crushed rosemary can be found in the spice section of most supermarkets.
Adapted from Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2011)