When we were growing up, we had a beef pot roast at least once a week. Mom’s beef pot roasts were simple affairs made with chuck roast, water, vegetables, a bay leaf and salt and pepper. Simple though they were, they tasted wonderful, especially with fresh rolls and plenty of butter.
Later, when Bob and I shared an apartment at Madison, we experimented with different spices and cooking liquids. I blush to admit it, but we liked pretty much every variation we tried. Perhaps we were better cooks than we thought, though it might be more accurate to say that we were better eaters. The recipe below is one that Jerri and I have used for many years, and it still tastes good to us and our guests.
If you have to do the dishes, you will appreciate a pot roast made on top of the stove. The meat, potatoes and vegetables cook in one pan. By varying your cooking liquid you can achieve the flavor you like best.
2 1/2 to 3 lb. beef chuck roast
1/2 cup dry red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
1 medium onion
4 to 5 carrots
3 to 4 potatoes
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 T cornstarch
Trim excess fat from the meat. Put the trimmings in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid and render the fat scraps until you have coated the bottom and sides of skillet with the rendered fat. Discard the trimmings. Turn the heat up and brown the roast in the hot pan on all sides. Drain any excess fat after the meat is browned.
Turn down the heat, sprinkle the salt and grind the pepper over the meat. Add 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water along with the bay leaf, cloves and bouillon cube. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Check once or twice to make certain that the liquid does not boil away. Add a small amount of wine or water if necessary.
Peel and cut the onion into thick slices and place them on top of the meat. Peel and quarter the potatoes and clean and cut the carrots into 2 inch pieces. Place them around the meat in the skillet. Shake a little salt on the vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are done, about half an hour. Remove the meat and vegetables and keep them warm. To make the gravy add water or a combination of water and wine to make about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water, stir into the pan and cook until clear. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Slice the meat and pass it with the vegetables and gravy. Serve with more of the wine used to cook the roast accompanied by a green salad and fresh bread.
VARIATIONS: Use red port wine and about 1/4 tsp. basil instead of the burgundy and bay leaf. Or substitute beer for the burgundy. If you want a little more zip, add a couple of dashes of cayenne or hot sauce.