By Sherry Nappa
Rustic pot roast is a dish that we had often when I was a kid. Mom roasted the meat slowly on low heat until it was so tender that it fell apart (our nickname for the dish was tear-apart-meat). This dish works best with tougher cuts of meat like chuck, shoulder, or round roast, but I find that chuck roast has the most flavor. Chuck roast is a highly marbled cut of meat, and when slow roasted, the marbling melts and produces ample juice to use in making gravy. The day after mom cooked a pot roast usually meant we were having open-face roast beef sandwiches, made with the leftover roast and gravy.
To make rustic pot roast, start by preparing vegetables. I normally leave the skins on the potatoes, but I clean them up by removing discolored areas and scrubbing them with a vegetable brush. Skin the carrots, peel the onions, and trim up the celery. Quarter the potatoes and onions; cut the carrots and celery in thirds.
Generously salt and pepper all sides of the roast. I like to use coarse sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper but regular salt and pepper works just fine.
In a deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over high heat. Sear roast on all sides until nice and brown, about one minute per side. Sear the sides by holding the roast with tongs, then pressing each side in the hot oil until brown. Place the roast in a Dutch oven or large roasting pan (my favorite). If tidbits of caramelized meat are left in the pan, add 1/2 beef stock or water and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.
Add the pan drippings to roasting pan and arrange vegetables, then salt and pepper vegetables and roast. Mom sometimes cooks the vegetables separately to avoid over cooking. I like to add mine to the pan with the beef and let them slow roast in the juices. You can also add them to the pan after the roast cooks for about an hour. This will help prevent the vegetables from becoming too soft. Add wine (red wine clearly goes with the beef, but we substitute madeira, amontillado, or whatever we feel like that day), and about 1 cup of beef stock. Cover, and cook on 275°F for about 3 or 3 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender (at least 3 hours).
When the roast is ready, remove vegetables and roast from pan, including any bits and pieces. To make the gravy, I position the roasting pan on both the front and back burners, but you can easily pour the remaining juices in a saucepan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or whisk, loosening those juicy caramelized bits of beef and roasted vegetables. Make sure there’s about 2 cups of liquid in the pan. If not, add beef stock or water until you have about two cups of broth. In a small glass, add two heaping tablespoons of cornstarch and about 1/2 cup of water. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved. When the broth is near boiling, add cornstarch mixture and stir until gravy thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.
To serve the roast, pull it apart using two forks or slice the roast with a fork and knife (the roast will usually fall apart). Mom served her roast with a tossed salad, but I usually make buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
About the only thing leftover is a potato or two, so make sure you sample a bite before serving everyone else.
- 3-4 pound boneless chuck roast
- salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 potatoes
- 4-6 carrots
- 2-3 stalks celery
- 2-3 onions
- ½ cup red wine (optional)
- 1½ cups beef stock
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup water
- Wash and prepare vegetables. Quarter potatoes and onions; cut carrots and celery in thirds.
- Generously salt and pepper roast. In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on high heat. Sear roast on all sides until brown, about 1 minute per side. Set aside
- Reduce heat to medium. Add about ½ cup beef stock to pan. Use a wooden spoon and loosen the caramelized bits of beef.
- Add roast and vegetables to roasting pan. Add pan drippings, wine, and additional beef stock. Salt and pepper vegetables and roast.
- Cover, and cook at 275°F for 3 to 3½ hours, or until meat is tender.
- To make the gravy, remove meat and vegetables from pan. Mix together cornstarch and water. Add additional beef stock to make pan juices equal two cups. Bring to near boil, then add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Adjust salt and pepper.