BY MAVIS LINNEMANN Ah, the ubiquitous pot roast, the bane of American children everywhere. Leathery meat, thin, drippy sauce, soggy vegetables—a nasty meal I’ve met many times in my life. Luckily, my mom asked me to make a pot roast for the family a few weeks ago when I was home, or I never would have learned how wonderful a pot roast can be if done right. Thanks for putting me to work, Ma! I decided I was going to put my extensive (read: expensive) culinary training to use to make the reviled pot roast not only edible, but also amazing. Instead of throwing the meat in a pot and covering it with bland liquid, I decided to season it nicely and brown it in a nice hot pot, and the vegetables received the same treatment. Instead of boring old water or beef bouillon, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and a carton of beef broth was my braising liquid.
The family was quite pleased with my new and improved version of the pot roast, but I knew the recipe still needed some tweaking, so I decided to give it another go this past Saturday. I took to heart everyone’s minor complaints with this new version: better meat (me), more bite-size pieces of meat (grandma), more wine (my sister, Paige), and a thicker sauce (mom). The first stop on the road to recipe redemption was Gene’s Sausage Shop, one of Doug and me’s favorite specialty shops in Lincoln Square near my house. We came upon a gorgeously marbled grass-fed pot roast in the deli case, and we knew it had our name on it. At $17 it was a few bucks more than what I would have paid at our local grocery store for a 3.5 lb roast, but the quality of the meat was well worth it. Problem No. 1 solved.
The other fixes were just as easy: I chopped the meat into more manageable chunks and dredged them lightly in flour before browning to help thicken the braising liquid and subsequently my final sauce. I covered the beef and veggies more than half way with a yummy cabernet and then topped it off with veal stock. Of course, if you haven’t spent three days in the kitchen making Thomas Keller’s veal stock from The French Laundry Cookbook like a crazy person (i.e., me), any high-quality beef stock will do, like Swanson or College Hill brands. These simple changes made a decent pot roast into an amazing pot roast—I think the best I’ve ever had, and the boys I shared it with heartily agreed. I solemnly swear to never defame the pot roast again. Promise. MORE