Pot roast ranks right up there with roast chicken as one of my all-time favorite home cooked meals. It falls into the category of what I like to call 'Sunday suppers’—those simple, mouth watering meals that celebrate gathering around the table and make even the novice home cook feel like a chef. Like recipes for roast chicken, recipes for pot roast abound. It's always fun to experiment with new and exotic takes, but at the end of the day—or at the end of a long week—I want a recipe that is delicious and foolproof; in other words, a simple recipe with complex flavors. This is that recipe; fork-tender meat smothered in a savory sauce, with deeply caramelized onions that literally melt in your mouth. The richness lingers on your palate. Four key ingredients make this recipe a success: beer, bacon, onions and lots of thyme. It begins with the browning and caramelizing of the meat and the onions. You slowly render the fat from the bacon and then brown the outside of the roast in the savory bacon fat. The goal is a golden brown crust that is going to lock in the roast’s juices and heighten the flavor of the braising liquid. You cannot rush this step, and you must be careful not to burn the bottom of the pan. Patience truly is a virtue here. If the meat is sticking to the pan, it is not ready. Once it’s browned on all sides, the roast is set aside to rest. Onions are added to deglaze the pan and gather the flavor-building bits that have collected at the bottom. Think French onion soup! Caramelizing the onions fully before braising the meat enhances and deepens the flavors. So crack yourself a beer (you’ll already need a bottle for the pot) and let the onions slowly sweeten. A pot roast is perfect for this time of year. Rich and simple, yes, but beyond that, this is a meal meant to be shared with friends and family. And happily, it can be made well in advance of their arrival, so you can enjoy their company and some slow-cooked comfort food together around the holiday table.
To serve a sliced pot roast, remove it at the two hour mark, slice against the grain and return it to the braise to finish cooking, or refrigerate it overnight and slice chilled. Always store the meat in the braising liquid. This will keep the roast juicy and tender. It is even more delicious the following day because all of the flavors have fully developed (making leftovers a bonus). Otherwise, simply pull the meat apart with two forks. You want it to fall apart. Savor all of those crumbly bits. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. If you prefer a roast with bright vegetables, strain the braising liquid and add a variety of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, etc., and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. The possibilities are endless.
1. Set the oven at 325 degrees
2. Allow the roast to rest at room temperature for up to an hour prior to cooking. Pot Roast Perfection | WGBH | Craving Boston This locally raised roast is from MF Dulock Pasture Raised Meats in Somerville. (Photo: Leah Mawson)
3. In a large, heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot, cook the bacon over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer the crisp bacon onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
5. Add the olive oil to the pan. Pat the roast dry, season with salt and pepper and sear until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Do not allow the bottom of the pan to burn. Transfer the roast to a large plate.
6. Drain any remaining fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and salt to taste. The salt is crucial because it will cause the onions to sweat. Use the juices to deglaze the pot. If residue builds up on the bottom, add 1/4-cup of the beer and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Continue to cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring frequently for about 50 minutes until caramelized.
7. Return the bacon and the roast to the pot. Add the beer, chicken stock or water, thyme and bay leaves. Do not worry about removing the thyme leaves from the stem.
8. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven.
9. Turn the roast halfway through cooking, about 1 ½ hours.
10. Cook until beef is tender when pierced with a fork, about 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours. Note: the cooking time varies depending on whether the roast is flat or round. A flat roast will take less time to cook completely.
11. Remove from the oven. Add the butter to the braising liquid and baste the roast. Allow the roast to rest in the braising liquid for 10-15 minutes before serving.
12. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves. Transfer to a serving dish with the braising liquid. Note: to thicken the sauce slightly, remove the roast and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Garnish with parsley. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes, buttery egg noodles or bitter greens.
Craving Boston's Leah is a southern transplant and new mother dedicated to growing, cooking and eating great food. She has spent the last decade building a career centered on her love of food and hospitality, working at some of the top restaurants in Boston including The Butcher Shop and Eastern Standard. For Leah, the act of eating is more than a passion, it shapes her way of life.
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