Published November 1, 2010.
These days, pot roasts come in all styles and flavors. But when we went looking for truly beefy taste, a simple 19th-century recipe proved the best guide.
There is no shortage of ways to cook a pot roast—and jazzed-up iterations have their place—but the simple approach (throwing meat into a pot with liquid, a few basic seasonings, carrots and onions; cover and place in a low oven; then walk away until dinner) deserved attention.
Our goal was to make this no-frills recipe the best it could be: a meltingly tender, sliceable roast sauced in a full-bodied gravy. We wanted it to be good enough for Sunday supper, of course, but also ready for prime time on Saturday night.
We opted for a chuck eye. This well-marbled roast is full of collagen and particularly suited to braising, with a long, tapered shape that slices easily.
We began by doing something about the pesky globs of interior fat that stubbornly refused to render as the beef cooked. We opened the roast along its natural seam and trimmed away the excess fat, then left the two lobes as separate roasts instead of tying them back together. The benefits were twofold: Using these smaller roasts shaved about an hour off the cooking time, and all that exposed surface area meant that the salt we applied to it before cooking would penetrate even further.
To beef up the gravy, we used a combination of water, beef broth, and red wine for the braising liquid. We also added a bit of glutamate-rich tomato paste, which enhances meaty flavor. A few cloves of garlic, some herbs, and the standard mirepoix trio of onions, carrots, and celery, sautéed in butter for extra richness, were also in order.
In the interest of streamlining, we determined that the initial sear called for in most pot roast recipes wasn’t necessary. We found that the “dry” part of the meat that stays above the braising liquid eventually browns, even without searing.
By the time we pulled the roast out of the pot, the vegetables had broken down and started to thicken the gravy. To eke out every bit of their flavor, we tossed them into the blender with the defatted cooking liquid and extra beef broth (to thin the consistency). Just before serving, we stirred in a spoonful of balsamic vinegar and a bit more wine for brightness. The resulting gravy was exceptionally rich and full-bodied.list of recipes