The first meal that I made as a young wife that solidified my love of cooking was a pot roast. My mother had made a great pot roast, and I knew this meal would be a staple in my own new home. This simple, one-pot meal of beef, carrots, potatoes and onions was the quintessential home-cooked meal. I asked for my mother’s recipe and found that onion soup mix was the surprise ingredient that made it so flavorful.
All of these years of cooking pot roast has lead me to a realization: there is the pot roast of my youth–a staple meal that brings back fond memories, and then there is the more refined, mind-blowing pot roast of my adulthood. I’ve made some not so drastic changes to my pot roast game that really make a difference in the experience of this meal:
- Searing. The pot roast of my youth was not seared. It was raw, plunked in to a roasting pan or crock pot with its accompanying ingredients. This made for a quick and sometimes dry pot roast. Searing meat before you braise it is the best way to build a foundation of deep flavor and seal in all of those juices for a tender roast. All of that brown stuff in the pan after searing is called the “fond.” When you deglaze the pan with wine (see #2), you start a wonderful laying process that adds a tremendous amount of depth and flavor to your pot roast.
- Wine. I hold a strong belief that most dishes need a bit of acid to cut through the richness and add balance. When braising meat, wine can add this acidity and also layer on another flavor. I prefer red wine for my pot roast. It adds to the rich beefy flavor.
- Root vegetables. The pot roast of my youth contained potatoes and carrots. I still like to add potatoes and carrots, but other root vegetables work very well, too. Try parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, or sweet potatoes for a fun alternative.
- Gravy. I once thought that gravy was not something you made at home without a packet purchased from the store. Truth be told, I always thought gravy was something you only had at Thanksgiving. Then, I made gravy to go with a pot roast once and my world changed. Remember all of that flavor layering? Well, the ultimate way to capture it is to make a gravy out of the pan drippings and pour it over your pot roast.