Seattle's Child

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perfect pot roast

Our family kitchen: Three-generation pot roast

Passing down the family recipe for the perfect roast

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter came into the kitchen and said, “Grammy is going to teach me how to make pot roast! Will you buy one?” 

What’s that you say? My daughter is connecting with her grandmother through the portal of my kitchen? (Insert diabolical eye glaze and evil genius fingers here!)

Food as tapestry

I’m not evil or a genius, but I do have a potent belief that food is more than just the fuel for our bodies. Sharing food is the thread of (forgive me here) the tapestry of our family memories and one of the ways we pass on traditions and values. With that in mind, and with apologies to the non-meat eaters, back to pot roast!

I picked up a hefty beef chuck roast at the market and brought it home to Team Grands—mother and daughter. Watching and listening to their discussion of different ways to create one of the most iconic dinners made my mom’s heart swell like the Grinch on top of Mt. Crumpit. What follows is the one, admittedly very basic, recipe that they made on a Sunday afternoon.  

It’s not fussy!

If you are new to the world of roasting, remember that pot roast is not fussy. Whether you cook your roast on the stove with more liquid or in the oven with less, you can’t go wrong if you follow the formula of meat, some vegetables, a little liquid, and some seasoning cooked low and slow.  

Pot Roast

Ingredients:

  • 3-pound beef chuck roast
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, 2 large carrots, and 2 celery stalks cut into chunks 
  • As many unpeeled garlic cloves as you like
  • Two bay leaves
  • A few liberal pinches of thyme 
  • A cup of red wine or beef stock

Gravy:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch 
  • Beef stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 300°.
  2. Liberally salt and pepper the roast while you heat on medium-high in a cast iron Dutch oven or any other deep cooking pot with a lid that can go into the oven.  
  3. Add oil to cover the bottom of the pot and brown the roast for just a few minutes on each side.  Remove the roast and set aside.  
  4. Reduce the heat to low and add the veggies, etc.  Sauté just a bit for everyone to get to know each other and set the roast on top of the veggies like the guest of honor it is.  
  5. Cover, put in the oven, and let the slow, low magic happen. Every now and then, take your roast’s temperature with a meat thermometer. It is done when the internal temperature is 145°. You can expect this to take about 4 hours.  
  6. When the temperature has reached 145°, take the pot out of the oven and transfer the roast to a serving platter. Tent it with foil and let it rest while you make the gravy. Now, making gravy does take some skill, and my daughter is fortunate to have had the time to watch and learn this from her Grammy, a gravy-making superhero.  
  7. Remove the vegs from the pot and set aside.  When the garlic cloves are cool enough, squeeze that yummy goodness back into the pot of cooking juices.  
  8. Take ½ cup of the cooking liquid, put it in a bowl with the corn starch, and mix into a slurry.   
  9. Put low heat under the pot, add the cornstarch mixture, and gently stir until it thickens. If the grave is too thick, add some beef stock. Too thin, cook longer, and/or make another small cornstarch & liquid slurry and add to the pot.  Once you get the right consistency, taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. 
  10. Slice the warm roast against the grain into ½-inch thick pieces and arrange them lovingly on the platter.  Serve with potatoes, veggies of your choice, and a boat of warm gravy on the side.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig or whatever herb you like. Oh my!!  

All day, the smell of the kitchen will bring them in, carving neural pathways that will become memories. One day, your child may ask their Grandparents how to make a pot roast, and you will smile to yourself and maybe even get diabolical eyes and evil genius fingers.  

Read more:

Hoppin’ John: A NY’s Day tradition in my family

Winter Solstice: Nature is the gift

Winter Comfort Food

Sunday Dinner at Mary’s

 

About the Author

Mary Yglesia

Mary Yglesia is a mother and grandmother who spent many years living and picnicking in and around Seattle with her family before moving to eastern Washington. She works with the environmental advocacy group Methow Valley Citizens Council.