It is a cold, rainy Saturday in upstate NY. The rain is getting chunky, as if it is puffing itself up to turn to snow. Perfect day for hanging out in front of the fireplace and enjoying some old-fashioned comfort food.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would start the pot roast first thing in the morning, searing it in a heavy pot, the bottom of her pressure cooker, as I recall. Then she’d add some water, cover it with a lid left slightly askew and leave it to simmer away until dinner, filling the house with delicious aromas. Of course, this meant being around all day to check on it and add more liquid periodically. Who has time for that?
I started the same way, with a top round roast of a couple of pounds, seasoned with salt and pepper, and dried garlic and onion, searing in those juices, then plopping it into the crock pot to finish.
I thought about roasting the vegetables, or taking the easy way out and simply popping them in with the meat right away, but I wanted to give the meal a little more depth by caramelizing the sweet things a bit before letting them get to know the beef.
So into the pan: a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a medium chopped onion, a medium sweet potato, cubed, and four or five carrots and parsnips (try to get about the same amount of each) cut up in knuckle-sized pieces. I stirred them around with just a tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkled no more than two teaspoons of brown sugar over things. The veggies will add quite a bit of sweetness all on their own, so to balance back to savory, I added about a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a few turns of black pepper, and a teaspoon of dried thyme.
When this all started to get golden, I deglazed the pan with most of a bottle of beer and added it to the crock pot with the roast.
Beer Disclaimer: If you use some silly beer like Miller Lite, don’t complain to me that it doesn’t taste good. Use something with some meat on its bones.
Fast forward six hours.
Everything comes out of the pot onto a platter and is covered with foil while I reduce the liquid to a luscious gravy. Add a little tomato paste, a touch of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, let it reduce to a happy thickness. If you want a little more pizazz, and I did, add about a teaspoon of prepared horseradish. Slice the meat, dish the veggies and serve with a sliced and toasted corn muffin.
A dark and dreary day doesn’t get much better.
Here is everything you need:
2-3 lb top round roast
1 lb sweet potato
1-2 lb carrots
1-2 lb parsnips
1 med, onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bottle of beer
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper or chili powder
This will easily feed 6 normal people or 4 hungry men.