The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

I think every home cook goes through a period of complexity. I partly blame Pinterest, but I’m sure there’s something deeper, too – superiority complex or need for change or something like that. I’ve gone through my own period of complexity, thinking that every dish needed to be new or different. And don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy trying new things and playing around with flavors. But lately, I’ve found myself aching for simplicity. Not just with my cooking, but life in general.

Long-time readers know that blogging is not “what we do.” It’s a side-gig. Jules focuses on being a mom (and rocks the house at it, I might add) while taking a few marketing and writing jobs on the side. I spend my days as a mild-mannered marketing guy for a home care research firm. The end of the year typically slows for me at work, but 2014 has proven to be different. Last week I found myself working from 7am until midnight several days in a row, trying to finish projects before members of my team head out of town to spend Christmas with their loved ones. We built a baby gate on Saturday, and while the gate itself was quick and simple, finding the right type of boards required a lot of driving between small Idaho towns and ate up most of my day. It was just one of those weeks where you feel like you’re time is  spent fulfilling demands, and those weeks are exhausting. You know how that goes.

So Saturday night, after the girls were in bed and Jules was on her way there, I decided to go to the store and buy a few things to make a pot roast for Sunday dinner. I don’t know why pot roast specifically, though I’m sure it has to do with simplicity. A lot of recipes nowadays go too far in their quest for uniqueness, I feel. I honestly love the fact that, after a long and difficult week, my appetite was begging for simplicity. This recipe is exactly what I needed, and maybe it’ll be what you need at some point, too.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

This is enough for 6 people. Here’s what you need:
• 3lb Pot roast
- quick note on choosing a roast. it’s important you pick something with a lot of marbling. when you cook a pot roast, it cooks for a long time – well above the 165 “well done” point. if you use a lean roast, you’ll be serving jerky for dinner. the fat slowly melts as the roast cooks and keeps it moist and tender. my favorite cut for pot roast is the chuck (pictured above).
• 
12 red new potatoes
• 3 leafy celery stalks, finely chopped
- I like the inner stalks for pot roast because the stalk itself is slightly bitter, but the leafy parts have a more fresh flavor. the combination is perfect with a slow cooked beef roast.
• 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered into 2-3 inch lengths
• 1 onion (I used white), diced
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can use dried, but it’ll be a lot better with fresh)
• 1 tsp dried fennel seed
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1/4 tsp dried thyme (careful with this – thyme can easily become “too much thyme”)
NOT PICTURED
• 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 quart beef stock
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 2 Tbsp tomato paste
• kosher salt & black pepper
• 2 Tbsp cooking oil

The first thing you do with any pot roast is sear it. You’ll hear people often say this is to “lock in the juices,” but that’s not correct. Searing locks in juices when you’re using a dry heat cooking method like roasting. But a pot roast cooks in liquid, often past the point of 200 degrees. No amount of searing is going to lock juices in from that. As mentioned above, the key to a moist, tender pot roast is choosing the right cut of meat.

Why the searing, then? Flavor. Texture a little, too, but mostly flavor. You sear the meat in the pan first, then you cook your onions in the drippings from the beef, building flavors all over the place. A good sear sets your pot roast up for success.

Preheat your oven to 300. Then heat a decent sized pot (one with a lid – I prefer cast iron for pot roast because of how well it holds heat) on medium heat. Before searing, pat the roast down with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Not completely coated, of course. But for a 3lb roast, you’ll use 1-1.5 Tbsp of kosher salt. Once the pot is heated, add your cooking oil and sear the meat well on each side.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

Once seared, remove the roast and set aside. Kick the heat down to medium low and add the chopped onion to the oil. Add the dried spices and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or so, stirring things around frequently to prevent burning. Add the beef stock, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste and whisk together. Bring to a simmer and let it boil for another 5 minutes.

The next step is optional, but I recommend it. After the onions simmer in the stock for awhile, I use my immersion blender to blend it all together until smooth. The reason I do this is because I think it creates a more velvety sauce. But if you don’t have an immersion blender, you don’t have to do this. The flavor will be the same.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary. You’ll know it’s seasoned properly when it tastes like it could pass off as a soup. Next, add your chopped celery to the cooking liquid, then your beef roast, carrots, rosemary, and potatoes. Cover the pot with a lid and put it in the oven for 5 hours. Before going in the oven:

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

After:

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

The smell of rosemary will reach every corner of your house, in the best way imaginable. The potatoes are silky, the carrots tender, and the beef… well, it will take you home.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

 

As Jules can tell you, the way of taking care of people that I’m best at, is through food. I like cooking meals for people, and boosting their spirits. We all need it from time to time, and it just so happened that the person I needed to cook this for this weekend, was me. And though I can’t be there to cook for you and your family, I hope you’ll allow us to come to your home, through this recipe, so we can spend a meal together.

Happy Holidays, friends. And Merry Christmas.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast
Servings: 6
This is a classic, traditional pot roast. It's easy to make, but the flavors are deep and rich. This is not the dish you make when you want to show your friends and family what a good cook you are. This is the dish you make when you want to show your friends and family that you love them. The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
  • Ingredients

    • 3lb Chuck roast
    • 12 red new potatoes
    • 3 leafy celery stalks, chopped
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered into 2-3in lengths
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
    • 1 tsp dried fennel seed
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 quart beef stock
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
    • kosher salt & black pepper

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 300. Heat a medium-sized cast iron pot (one that has a lid) over medium heat on the stove.
    2. Sprinkle the roast generously with salt and pepper. Add the cooking oil to the heated pot and sear the meat on all sides. Remove from the roast from the pot and set aside and reduce the heat to medium-low.
    3. Add the onions, fennel, oregano, thyme, and garlic to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes.
    4. Add the beef stock, vinegar and tomato paste to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
    5. Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid until smooth and silky.
    6. Add the chopped celery to the liquid. Then add the roast, carrots, fresh rosemary, and potatoes.
    7. Cover with a lid and place in the 300 degree oven for 5 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falls apart.
    http://www.chrislovesjulia.com/2014/12/the-perfect-traditional-pot-roast.html

    Free Printable! | Blank Family Tree

    Last year at this time I posted about a family tree I made as a DIY gift idea. You can see the whole post here. I just used black india ink to script the tree:

    Untitled-2

    And then filled in my family members’ names with a black gel pen.

    IMG_0881

    Untitled-1

    The wood frame (from Target!) really makes it gift-worthy. Since that post, I have been receiving requests to put the blank tree in my Etsy shop. Although I feel confident you, too, could make this tree with ink and a small brush (I believe that so much!), I decided to make it available as a free printable. (Merry Christmas!!) It will print up to a 24×30, but I suggest keeping it around an 8×10–or just print it in standard paper size right from home and use your best penmanship to fill it in with your family names.

    blank-family-tree

    You can download the pdf right here —>>  clj blank family tree

    Happy Handwriting!

    A DIY Baby Gate

    When we moved into our first home, Greta was about 14 months old and we used one of those cheap baby gates for a brief period of time–maybe a month?–before she got the hang of the stairs. I was so happy to put that thing away! Now, Faye is 8 months old and getting very mobile, so we knew we would want a baby gate for the top of the stairs for her and for Charly, too, (without going into too much detail, Charly isn’t allowed downstairs when we’re not home for, ahem, sanitary reasons) for the next good while. Our stairwell is extra wide and after looking at our options, we decided to just make a “built-in” one ourselves. Because, let’s be honest, there just aren’t very many attractive baby gates out there. Here’s what we came up with!

    IMG_9637

    Since this entry area is already pretty spindle heavy, we wanted to keep the gate as non-existent (but still safe, of course) as possible. That’s how we came up with the idea of using heavy duty plexi-glass in a wood frame.

    IMG_9620

    It’s there. It’s sturdy. But it also blends very nicely, too. I didn’t take a ton of in progress pictures because we busted this out during Faye’s nap (read: as fast as possible!), but here’s how we did it:

    Materials Needed:
    (1 8ft) rounded edge 2×2 pine board
    (1 8ft) squared edge 2×2 pine board
    (1 6ft) 1×2 pine board
    (1 8ft) 2×3 board
    (2) hinges
    (1) latch
    screws
    wood filler
    medium grit sandpaper
    table saw or router
    1/4 inch plexi glass (we picked ours up at our local Ace. They cut it to size, too!)

    Our gate is basically a thick sheet of 1/4″ plexiglass in a wood frame made of 2x2s on three sides and a 2×3 on the bottom. Once Chris cut each board to size (our baby gate is 42″x34″), he routed out the wood 3/8″ deep and wide enough for the plexi to sit inside. He opted to use our table saw for this, repeatedly running it through until the groove was wide enough, but you could also definitely use a router if  you have one.

    IMG_9575

    Important note! This is when you might want to paint/stain your frame. Right now. BEFORE you screw it all together. We made a rookie mistake and waited to paint it until it was all together, so you can see some of the unpainted routed groove at some angles. Not a huge deal, but save yourself the face palm.

    IMG_9582

    Since the sides of the gate are almost always hidden because it is closed, we thought that would be the best place to drive the screws in. We pre-drilled the holes so we wouldn’t risk splitting the wood, and although you can still see where the channel for the plexi was routed out on the edges here (see image above)–that is on purpose. It was nice to see where the routed part was for this step, so we could be sure to avoid hitting the plexi while screwing it all together. Afterward came wood filler for those holes and other imperfections, then sanding it all smooth.

    IMG_9583

    We kept the protective plastic covering on the plexi during this whole process to, well, protect it, but pulled it back just a couple inches so it wouldn’t get stuck in the wood. After everything was sanded smooth, we put on a couple coats of the same paint we recently used on our banister: Clark+Kensington Exterior High Gloss paint in TomCat. Originally we talked about staining the wood, but because we wanted it to be as seamless and camoflauged as possible, introducing another color or wood tone to the mix might just draw more attention than we wanters.

    IMG_9584 IMG_9591

    For the hinges, we used these stainless steel 1 inch door hinges so that we could rest easy knowing our gate wasn’t going to sag or rip off of the wall. For extra measure, we attached a 1×2 (painted the same color as the wall) to the wall for support and also so the gate could swing more freely.

    IMG_9660

    During Faye’s naps and through the night, we leave it open and it rests nicely against the stairwell wall.

    IMG_9621

    It actually latches on the stair side of the gate. Greta can reach it from the opposite side, which we wanted. We did screw the eye of the latch right onto our banister, but it’s nothing a little wood filler and paint won’t fix once we’re done with it.

    IMG_9623

    Truthfully, Faye hasn’t been too interested in the stairs (or strangely the tree!) yet, but we are at peace now knowing we can run to grab something from the other room or change a load of laundry without fearing her making a break for the stairs.

    IMG_9607

    Though we went back and forth on how we wanted to build the gate, we’re so happy with how it turned out, and especially happy it only took a couple hours. A simple project, with little visual change but a big safety impact–exactly what we wanted. Though Faye may be having mixed feelings about her new restrictions.

    IMG_9689