Pot Roast

Pot Roast

This recipe, which is an adaptation of Ruth Reichl's "Mother's Brisket", originally published in Gourmet magazine, works great with other cuts of meat besides brisket, such as a nice chuck roast. Yes, this cooks for hours and hours -- but you're only spending about 30 minutes holding its hand, so please don't be put off. Make it on a Sunday and eat it all week. You won't be sorry. I fed nine people with a three-pound roast, the key being to slice it nice and thin so that everyone feels like they're getting tons.

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 8 hours
Yield: 6-8 servings

a 3-6 pound beef roast (brisket or chuck)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 or 3 large yellow onions, sliced
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine (or white wine, if that's all you have)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste


  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a Dutch oven or another heavy, lidded, ovenproof pot (maybe you could also do this in a roasting pan and then cover it with foil?), heat a tablespoon of the oil for 10 minutes in the oven. Don't trim the meat; just pat it dry with paper towels and season it with salt and pepper, then roast it in the pan, uncovered, for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring, until they're turning soft and gold, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring every now and then, for another 20 minutes, at which point they should be nice and deeply golden.
  4. Add the garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper, and stir for a minute or so, then add the broth, wine, and tomato paste, and bring to a boil.
  5. Now take the half-hour-roasted meat out of the oven and pour the panful of onions and brothy wine over it, then return it to the oven and cook it, with its lid just barely ajar, for 4-5 hours, depending on how big and tough it was to begin with. Check it now and then to make sure the liquid hasn't all cooked off -- you'll need to add a cup of water every half hour, or hour, or so (if you positively need to abandon it in the oven, then start with 3 cups of water stirred in with the other liquid, but it's better the other way). Also, flip it half way through baking if you think to. After a long time, the meat will be a nice dark brown and will feel very yielding and compliant when you stab it with a fork. The gravy will be dark and delicious.
  6. Now you have choices. Simply let it rest a while, then slice it (though it will fall apart) and serve it with its juicy onions. Or do the following: let it rest in the pot until it's just barely warm, then wrap it in foil and put it in the fridge while you prepare the gravy. Scrape the onions and pan juices into a measuring cup, skim any visible fat, add water to make 3 cups, then puree it all in a blender or food processor. Taste it: if it's not perfectly salty, tangy, sweet, and delicious, add salt or very wee amounts of sugar or balsamic vinegar until it is just right; try the salt first.
  7. Now trim any obvious fat from the chilled meat, then slice it against the grain (it should be cool enough to fall apart less now), and arrange the slices in a large, shallow baking dish. Pour the gravy over it, and heat it in a 350ºF oven for half an hour. (This is a compromise: the original recipe has you chill the meat and gravy, separately, overnight.
  8. Serve the pot roast with noodles, boiled or mashed potatoes, or crusty bread. Heaven.

*Ingredient Tip
Leftover tomato paste? Scoop tablespoons of it onto a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet, freeze until solid, then store the frozen lumps in a (labeled!) Ziploc freezer bag. Or else let it get moldy in the fridge and throw it out later. Either way.

Read more about Catherine making Pot Roast with her family.

See all recipes from Catherine Newman's "Dalai Mama Dishes" blog.

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