My go-to dish for winter evenings is a pot roast, with all but the rice in one pot. At one time it could be consumed by my family, but as children went off to college, it began to cover two dinners plus sandwiches for lunch.
My pot roast proves that people like simple cooking because it is the same deep South style that my mother made, and I still get requests for it. When Ole Miss friends came home with me for weekends in Memphis, they often wanted “a pot,” meaning a beef roast with carrots and potatoes or similar treatment with a chicken.
Pot roast in the United States is believed to have French and German roots. Pot roast is not only Southern. There is the well-known Yankee pot roast, which is generally cooked in water or stock while southern-style allows the meat to make its own juices, adding a little liquid much later. In both cases, slow cooking tenderizes the meat. Most important is the browning in a heavy bottomed pot before simmering begins.
A few times friends from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast invited me to their homes for spring break or Sugar Bowl, and parents occasionally took us to Commander’s Palace and seafood restaurants overlooking the Gulf. These were my first experiences with what I called gourmet cooking.
Now a New Orleanian for many years, I still enjoy both deep-South and local cooking and wish everyone could be so lucky.
Slow cooking doesn’t mean the cook is busy the whole time. While the food simmers, you do something else, the same idea as red beans and rice on Monday wash days. If your family is large or you want two meals from one cooking, increase the size of roast to five or more pounds and use a heavy oval pot.
Some cooks use red wine and beef stock for liquid in a pot roast. A little red wine is nice, but I find the meat and seasonings lend flavor enough to the liquid. One thing for sure, it creates a delicious gravy to go with rice or mashed potatoes. If you’re looking for sides to go with pot roast, you can’t beat fresh green beans, seasoned with a little ham. Almost as good as the food are the smells throughout the house whenever a pot simmers on the stove while temperatures fall outside.
Southern Pot Roast
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 3-to-4-pound chuck, rump or shoulder beef roast
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 medium red potatoes, peeled
4 carrots, scraped
1 cup plus ½ cup water, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1. Cut garlic lengthwise into thin sticks. Use an ice pick to make small holes in the roast and insert garlic sticks several inches apart across the meat. This is called stuffing the roast. Chop leftover garlic. Sprinkle roast liberally with seasonings mashing the seasonings into the meat. Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pot and brown roast on all sides over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover roast with chopped onions and remaining garlic. Drizzle Worcestershire over all. Cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
2. Turn roast over, spooning onions over top, and add 1 cup water. Cover and continue simmering on low heat for 45 more minutes. Add potatoes and carrots and continue simmering for approximately 1½ more hours or until roast is fork tender.
3. Remove roast and vegetables to a plate. In a small bowl, stir flour into remaining ½ cup of water, stirring until all lumps are removed. Slowly add to liquid in the pot and heat, stirring, until gravy has formed. Return roast and vegetables to the pot. If not serving immediately, remove from heat and reheat to serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Dutch Oven Cooking
What kind of pot should you use to cook pot roast? Sometimes called Dutch ovens, any large, heavy pot with a cover will do. Black iron pots definitely qualify. The main concern is that the pot is thick on the bottom so that the meat browns well, followed by long simmering.