- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The title of that Oscar-winning song from the 1940s, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” describes the weather we’ve been having here in New England.

These frigid temperatures do not keep the hearty souls who live in the Northeast from entertaining and getting together, though.

We simply bundle up in layers before heading out.

We also cook robust dishes at this time of the year, since the chilly weather seems to make everyone ravenous. Nothing is better on a bitter cold day than a pot roast that has simmered slowly in the oven with aromatic vegetables and herbs until it is fork tender. That’s exactly what I am serving as a main course for a weekend meal for friends.

I rubbed a boneless chuck roast with a mixture of dried rosemary, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper before browning it in a deep-sided pot. Next, I sauteed a trio of root vegetables - finely diced carrots and celery plus sliced onions — in the same pan. Then, bay leaves and garlic were added, as well as stock, wine and some orange juice.

Once the liquids were simmering, I returned the meat to pan and put it in the oven to cook for about 2 1/2 hours.

It took about 45 minutes to prep the beef and vegetables, but once the meat was roasting, I only needed to baste it a few times.

Mashed potatoes are my favorite side to serve with pot roast, but one of my cooking assistants swears that buttered noodles are the best accompaniment.

A salad or any winter green vegetable (Brussels sprouts are my spouse’s choice) could round out this winter meal.

After all, there’s nothing like a pot roast menu to warm you and your friends when it’s cold outside.

Old fashioned pot roast with rich pan sauce

Makes 4 to 5 generous servings.

1 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 pound boneless chuck roast

1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups halved and sliced onion

1 cup finely diced carrots ( 1/4 inch cubes)

3/4 cup finely diced celery ( 1/4 inch cubes)

3 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

3 bay leaves, broken in half

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

3 cups reduced sodium beef stock

2 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pat roast dry with paper towels. Combine rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and rub on all sides of the roast. In a deep-sided, ovenproof pot (with a lid) set over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pot.

In the same pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil until hot, then add onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, stock, wine, and orange juice, and bring mixture to a simmer.

Return meat to pot; cover and cook in the oven until meat is fork-tender, basting every 30 to 40 minutes with pan juices, about 2 1/2 hours total.

Remove roast to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Skim off any fat and discard. With a slotted spoon remove 1 cup of the vegetables and puree in a food processor or blender. Return pureed vegetables to the roasting pan, and place pan over high heat. Reduce by a third. If not serving immediately, return roast to pan. (Roast can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate.

Reheat, covered, in a 350 degree preheated oven until roast is heated through and sauce is hot, about 30 minutes.) Cut the pot roast into 1/4-inch thick slices and serve topped with pan sauce and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

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