- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

It could be November, January or June, and I still love pot roast. Is it the cooked-down, comforting flavor of pot roast that I find so alluring, or is it just the convenience of tucking it in the oven, only to come back hours later and find dinner ready? Both, undoubtedly.

The real secret to slowly cooked pot roast is that you add no liquid to the pan. The big, sweet onions cook down, and this provides all the juice you need for the beef to simmer.

About an hour before the pot roast is done, pull the casserole from the oven and add some pre-peeled baby carrots from the supermarket and some chunks of potato. Return the casserole to the oven and the veggies will steam on top of the roast, becoming tender and flavorful.

Vary the root vegetables here, adding parsnips, rutabagas or turnips instead of the carrots and potatoes. And feel free to doctor the pot roast by adding garlic, a bay leaf or a dash — but only a dash — of red wine. Paired with a green vegetable such as beans, some bread and a cozy dessert of pudding, you have a meal to savor while you settle in for the evening.

Five time-shaving ways to use up leftover pot roast:

If your family cannot eat all the roast in one meal, don’t fret. It provides leftovers for another meal.

• Place slices of the roast on slices of French bread. Nap with the sauce, sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and broil until warmed through for easy melted sandwiches.

• Chop the leftover roast and onions, and add to quesadillas along with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Grill on both sides until crispy.

• Chop the leftover roast, onions and potatoes and heat in a frying pan with pan juices until the mixture is warmed through. Serve with cheese grits and a green salad.

• Chop the leftover beef and add to a large sauce pot along with the following: 1 large can of tomatoes and juice plus 1 can water; 1 can of beef stock and 1 can of water; and frozen soup vegetables. Simmer an hour, or until the soup pulls together. Taste for seasoning and serve at once.

• Chop the leftover beef and onions and saute for a minute in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a 26-ounce jar of pasta sauce and 1/2 cup red wine. Let simmer for 20 minutes, then serve atop your favorite pasta.

Mom’s pot roast with Vidalia onion gravy

The preparation time is 10 minutes, the cooking time is 7 to 9 minutes, and the baking time is 3 to 3½ hours.

1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 4 pounds)

Salt and black pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 large sweet onions, such as Vidalias, peeled and cut in half crosswise

4 cups pre-peeled baby carrots, optional

4 cups quartered peeled potatoes, optional

Pat roast dry with paper towels and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge roast in flour, then shake off the excess.

Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy, lidded, flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add roast and brown it on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove casserole from heat and transfer roast to a plate. Place onion halves, cut-side down, in bottom of casserole. Place roast on top of onions and cover the casserole.

Bake beef on center rack of preheated 300-degree oven until it is quite tender and juices have thickened, 3 to 3½ hours. One hour before beef is done, add carrots and potatoes, if using, to casserole. Spoon juices over vegetables to baste them, replace casserole lid and return casserole to oven.

To serve, carefully remove roast from casserole and slice. Arrange beef slices on plates with carrots, onions and potatoes, if using, and spoon pan juices on top.

Makes 8 servings.

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