When I think pot roast, I think Americana, I think 50s sitcoms and a beleaguered housewife who intones: “Oh, darn it, I burnt the pot roast!”
It’s not a dish that I ate much growing up, eating–as we did–most of our meals out. My first real pot roast memory, actually, comes from Atlanta. I ordered pot roast at one of my favorite, kitschy restaurants there–Agnes & Muriel’s–and got very sick afterwards. I don’t blame Agnes & Muriel’s, but I did blame pot roast. I avoided it for years.
Then, a few weeks ago, one of the eminent food world figures that I follow on Twitter–John “Doc” Willoughby (@jdocwill is his Twitname)–Tweeted the following: “Since winter seems to be early, I’m making comfort food — my grandma’s pot roast with caraway seeds and green apples over mashed potatoes.”
When people ask me “Why Twitter?” I often answer, “So you can follow people that you admire and interact with them.” Such was the case here when, after reading that Tweet (which made me pretty hungry), I replied and asked for the recipe. And, in respectable Twitter fashion, he replied and said that I could find it in a book he co-authored with Chris Schlesinger: “How To Cook Meat.”
And thus, through the magic of Twitter, I found myself a few weeks later making John “Doc” Willoughby’s grandmother’s pot roast on a cold autumn night. There are so many peculiar twists and turns to the recipe–caraway seeds? cider vinegar? APPLES?–but, as I trusted they might, each element revved the dish up significantly and the end result was a fork-tender pot roast with a nicely tart and acidic sauce and luscious, meaty apples. In the book, he suggests that you serve it with roasted potatoes and that’s precisely what I did. And, since it’s a braise, there’s very little chance that you’ll burst out, like a 50s housewife, with: “Darn it, I burnt the pot roast!” Instead, you’ll say, like a housewife of the 00s: “I made a very good pot roast and I have Twitter and food blogs to thank.”
Lazy Sunday Pot Roast with Caraway and Green Apples
by John “Doc” Willoughby (& his grandmother)
from “How To Cook Meat”
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 4 to 5 lb boneless cross-rib pot roast or other chuck roast
2 medium onions thinly sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs Caraway seeds
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh marjoram (or 2 Tbs dried)
2 to 2 1/2 cups beef stock
4 Granny Smith apples quartered, cored and peeled
1. Preheat oven to 300.
2. In a Dutch oven, heat oil on high heat until very hot. Pat meat dry and season with lots of salt and pepper. Brown well, 8 to 10 minutes a side. [Note: this is the MOST important step. This is where all the flavor comes from, so really let it get brown like this, ok? Promise?]
3. Remove meat to a plate. Pour off fat or add as needed so there are appx. 2 Tbs in the Dutch oven. Add onions and saute until translucent, 7 to 9 minutes:
[I think I made a mistake here; I salted the onions when they went in, and they let out so much liquid it took forever for it all to evaporate. So my suggestion is, add the onions, let them turn translucent, and then sprinkle with a little salt. It’s good to season as you go with a dish like this.]
4. Add vinegar, bring to boil, scrape up brown bits. Add the bay leaves, the Caraway seeds, the sugar, and the marjoram. Place the meat back in and add enough beef stock to come up the sides of the meat halfway.
Bring to a simmer, skim off fat, cover and put in the oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
5. At this point, add the apples to the pot:
15 minutes later, the apples will be done.
Remove them from the pot and start checking the meat for doneness. Continue cooking, with lid on, until fork tender–15 to 30 minutes more.
6. When finished, remove meat from the pot, cover with foil, and let it rest ten minutes. Skim fat from the liquid and taste: for more flavor, boil it until it coats a spoon. [I did this, and it makes the sauce taste great.]
7. Slice meat and serve with the apples, the liquid and the onions. Enjoy!