Thursday, March 21, 2013

Classic Pot Roast

There are few things more comforting than a perfectly cooked pot roast; a great weekend dinner on a chilly night. I grew up in Sonoma, CA, and on special occasions my family would go to the historic Swiss Hotel for their famed Wednesday night special: pot roast. I remember one occasion when my grandmother, Nonnie, took me to The Swiss on a date with the sole intention of ordering our beloved pot roast. The restaurant and bar are adorned with photos and mementos from Sonoma's past and has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1900s. I have fond memories of Nonnie telling me about the various photos on the wall, reminiscing about Sonoma long before its wine country claim to fame. 

Many recipes advise to use the carrots from the braise as a side served along the finished roast. I don't know about you, but mushy carrots that have been cooking for hours on end are not what I consider good eats. In my opinion, their sole intention is to flavor the roast and its braising liquid and should be discarded after the roast has finished cooking. Besides, all their delicious flavor has seeped into the rich winey sauce. I also find many recipes call for too many tomatoes. For me, this overpowers the entire sauce and ends up tasting more like a tomato sauce than a brown sauce. I find a 6 oz. can of tomato paste adds the right amount of acidity, without overpowering the entire sauce.

This recipe is reminiscent of those delicious pot roasts my family enjoyed at The Swiss. A good pot roast takes time and a little patience, but is always worth the wait. Don't be tempted to rush the process; the roast is done when a fork pierces the meat with ease. A perfect dinner to cook on lazy weekend afternoons. Trust me, your family and friends will thank you for it. Enjoy!

Adapted from Julia Child, The Way to Cook and Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

1 (4-5 lb.) boneless beef chuck roast, tied (see notes below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
Olive oil
4 carrots, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups red wine, such as Zinfandel, Chianti, or Burgundy 
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste 
3 cups beef stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature 
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Dry the roast using a paper towel. Generously season each side of the roast with salt and freshly ground black pepper and dredge in flour. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and brown for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the roast using tongs and sear the rest of the sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Once the roast is nicely browned, transfer it to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, and garlic, and season with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Once the wine begins to boil, add the beef stock and tomato paste and stir to combine. Tie the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf together using butcher's twine and add to the pot. Return the roast to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated. Baste the roast with the braising liquid and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender.

Remove the roast from the Dutch oven and transfer to a cutting board. Cover with tin foil and set aside. Strain the braising liquid through a colander set over a large bowl, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Using a large spoon, skim off the top layer of fat from the braising liquid. Return the liquid to the Dutch oven (you should have 3 to 4 cups of sauce) and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. To thicken the sauce, make a beurre manie: combine the butter and 2 tbsp. flour in a small bowl and blend them together using a fork. Stir into the braising liquid. This should thicken the sauce nicely. Taste the braising liquid to adjust seasonings. Remove the butcher's twine from the roast and cut it across the grain into 1/2-inch slices. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve. 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • If you're unfamiliar with tying roasts, see this helpful tutorial.


  1. Under such a deliciously thick gravy. Gorgeous!  ツ 

  2. Thanks Amateur Cook- it's one of my faves!