I recently saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa on Food Network in which Ina Garten was preparing pot roast for a dinner party. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I do like Ina Garten's food most of the time. However, I was appalled at the ridiculous ingredients that she used to make her pot roast and, since I just bought a 2.5 lb. eye of round roast, I decided to make it my way and blog about it to demonstrate that you do not need a bouquet garni or red wine to make a pot roast that is good enough for company. In fact, I have made pot roast using this same method for company numerous times and people always love it.
I think that pot roast is probably like meatloaf for most people--everyone has a different way of making it, but the basics are the same. There are certain dishes that do not need to be messed with and changed and pot roast is one of those dishes, as far as I am concerned. It is probably my all time favorite meal and Mother of Ken usually makes it for me when I visit (we call it "roast beast" in my family). Pot roast is one of those dishes that does not require a recipe--I make pot roast like my mother does and like my grandmother taught her and her mother taught her. It is a method that has been passed down from generation to generation in my family and I suspect that the same is true for most people.
Ina Garten's pot roast included ingredients such as a bouquet garni (in her case, a combination of rosemary and thyme), celery and leeks, red wine, and canned tomatoes in puree. That is not pot roast. That is something totally different, much closer to something like beef bourguignon. Here's how a real pot roast is made with simple ingredients that most people already have (I don't know about you, but I don't keep leeks in my vegetable bin). I also know that a certain friend of mine would kill me if I put celery in her pot roast (she considers it a "vile weed").
I use a "roasterette," which is a small roaster that my Grambi gave me when I moved out on my own. I start by heating some olive oil in the bottom of the roaster on medium high heat and then I add large pieces of yellow onion. I cook the onions until they are slightly caramelized and, this time, I added some mushrooms that I needed to use up.
After the onions are cooked, I take them out and put the roast into the pan to sear. I season the roast with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper before I sear it.
To deglaze the pan and add extra flavor to the roast, I pour in some red wine vinegar and water.
After that cooks down a little, I add some beef bouillon cubes to the liquid. Ina uses chicken stock and chicken bouillon cubes--for roast beef?
Then I add the onions (and mushrooms this time) to the cooking liquid:
I put the lid on the roasterette and put it into the oven on 250-300 degrees, depending upon when I am planning to serve the roast.
Here it is about halfway through cooking:
About an hour before I take it out of the oven, I add carrots to the cooking liquid. The carrots are my favorite part of pot roast.
When the roast is finished cooking, I take it out of the pan to rest and then make my gravy. I put the roaster on the stove and heat the liquid until it simmers. Then, I whisk in a mixture of water and flour to thicken the gravy and add some Kitchen Bouquet to deepen the flavor.
Ina Garten served her pot roast with baked potatoes and some kind of yogurt sauce. Please. As Mother of Ken said, "who eats baked potatoes with pot roast?" I love a good baked potato, but not with pot roast. I either put potatoes into the roaster with the carrots and meat or, more commonly, I make mashed potatoes. Again, these are not complicated and I do not use a food mill or a ricer to make them. I usually use Yukon gold potatoes, butter, and milk. That's it. Cook the potatoes, add butter and milk, then mash. People love my mashed potatoes.
Here's my finished plate: a slice of roast beef with gravy, pot roast carrots and onions, and mashed potatoes with butter. I sprinkled black pepper and grey sea salt over everything and dinner was served.
Not only do people appreciate my roast beast, but dogs also love it. Kenna knows when it is roast beast night and she waits patiently for her share of scraps and gravy (and a little carrot this time):
My favorite way to eat roast beast is to eat a little of the meat along with a little carrot and potato--so good together. Kenna's strategy is to lick the gravy off of everything first and then eat the meat.
I mixed up shepherd's pie filling with the rest of the roast beef, carrots, onions, and gravy and added some frozen peas.
Here I have four containers of shepherd's pie filling on the right, a container of dog scraps and gravy on the top left, and my leftover mashed potatoes on the bottom left. This will come in handy when I get back from L. A. and need a home cooked meal in a hurry.
Kenna even gets to lick the last of the gravy out of the roasterette:
I am sure that Kenna wouldn't like Ina Garten's roast as much as she likes mine. My roast was moist and tender, I could taste the meat and the flavor was complimented by the red wine vinegar, carrots, and onions, but it wasn't overpowered by herbs and red wine. The carrots were tender, but not mushy, and the gravy was rich and perfectly seasoned.