When Jeff comes home after a long day riding herd over the General Assembly I like to think there's some small measure of comfort for him here. And surely it can't be all sweetness and light working hard at senior sliding either? Felix probably deserves a good dinner too, which is another way of saying that sometimes I can lure him home for a rare sighting if the proffered meal is alluring enough. I think pot roast has generally fallen out of favor since the days of my childhood, which I think is a pity. I really can't imagine why, but I rarely hear of anyone (other than me) making it very often. It really can be the perfect thing for a chilly day, a busy day, a happy day or, well a sad day. Plus, if you don a cute apron while you prepare it, you start feeling all retro, and before you know it, you'll think that mixing up some martinis before dinner might be an idea....though that's another story entirely.
The thing is, pot roast is extremely easy and you get a huge bang for your buck. A boneless beef chuck roast is an inexpensive cut of beef which lets you splurge a little on some pricey, but oh so worth it, dried mushrooms. They add such an incredible burst of gumption to the lovely, juicy meat and stupendous gravy. Plus, since your pot roast is busy effortlessly cooking away in the oven for 3 hours or so, once you do the initial preparation, you're freed up to pursue other things for your own amusement while simultaneously preparing a first-rate dinner. They'll never know about the goodly dent you put into that book you're loathe to put down, or that long chat you had with your sister.
The other thing I've discovered, is that though a seemingly lowly offering, I've never met anyone who didn't regard pot roast as a treat. I recommend you unlimber it even for a low-key dinner party with some new potatoes and roasted broccoli. You'll be amazed at the wide-eyed delight of your guests, and the gusto with which they delve in.
It must be that retro thing it's got going on because the next thing you know, right after you get off the phone from talking to your sister, you'll be whipping up some brownies for desert.....you'll be serving them long after they polish off the pre-dinner martinis of course.
1 cup low-salt beef broth
1/2 ounce dried mushrooms such as porcini or morels (I've tried lots of different kinds in this recipe and all have been good except for dried Portobellos)
1 4-lb boneless beef chuck roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks with some leaves, chopped in 1/2 inch thick slices
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled in chopped into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, coarsely chopped
1 28 ounce can, diced San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add mushrooms to the broth. Cover and let stand for about 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a heavy large oven-proof pot over medium heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper and brown on all sides which should take about 15 minutes. Transfer the beef to a large plate. Add the chopped onions, celery and carrot to the drippings, add salt and pepper to taste and saute until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
In the meantime, using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a cutting board and chop coarsely, reserve the mushroom broth.
Add the garlic, chopped marjoram, and chopped mushrooms to the pot and saute for an additional minute. Add the tomatoesand saute for 3 minutes stirring and scraping the browned buts from the bottom of the pot. Add the wine and boil for about 5 minutes to reduce. Add the reserved mushroom broth, leaving behind any sediment. Boil for an additional 5 minutes.
Return beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Turn beef over and continue cooking until very tender which should be about another 1 1/2 hours.
Remove beef to a cutting boardand slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return it to the pot and serve it with potatoes or noodles, and broccoli or other green vegetable.
Photographs courtesy of Sarah Hazlegrove