February Pot Roast a la Vermont Castings

Yes, it’s February here in Connecticut. Yesterday we got about ten inches of snow, though it’s not terribly cold today. I’m very fortunate to be able to work from my home. To use a well-worn phrase, the commute’s great! But there are some other bennies. One is the luxury that you see illustrated here. Let’s back up a bit. The first luxury is being able to multi-task domestic and business pursuits, like throwing in a load of laundry or starting supper before 6:00 p.m. Now, carry that one step further. Plan a big ‘ol pot roast for the dinner that you’re cooking when your son comes by for dinner. Cool.

I’m very excited because this is from a quarter of beef that I’ve recently gotten from a local farm. Before he/she gave their life for me, this creature enjoyed the light of real sun, strolled through pastures and ate only mother’s milk and grass.  It’s very lean and flavorful.   As I’m getting ready to make my favorite pot roast (recipe below) it occurs to me that I’ve got the wood stove chugging away, and that will be a perfect (and very economical) slow cooker. I can let that roast just simmer away all afternoon, popping in now and then to see how the temperature is holding. A pot roast is a very good culinary match for a wood stove–very forgiving. Temperature controls on my stove are not terribly sophisticated: more wood/less wood, damper open/damper closed, air intake widget in the back open/closed, front door cracked a bit/sealed closed. But usually it’s pretty easy to maintain a nice slow simmer like you would get on top of your stove or an oven set to 325 degrees.

My roast is simmering as I peck away. Here’s a recipe that I swear by. Didn’t get it from my mother, and when I made it for her, she was skeptical (wouldn’t you be using a jar or horseradish?), but proclaimed that it was great. I found this recipe years ago when I was newly married and new to cooking on my own and didn’t know to be afraid of using so much horseradish. Ignorance is bliss. I’ve since tweaked the recipe some, but haven’t changed the amount of horseradish. Believe that there’s some chemistry going on that causes the horseradish to tenderize the meat, but can’t prove that. Just know that you don’t even taste the radish–even in the gravy. Go figure!

“Who’d a thought” pot roast

  • 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 1 teas. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 lb pot roast (bottom round, chuck roast, or similar low-quality cut)
  • 1 jar (5 oz.) horseradish
  • 8 – 10 oz. beer, water, or broth
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 8 each of your favorite small root vegetable, such as potato, parsnips, onions, carrots. I also use celery if I have some on hand, and baby portabellas are great, scrubbed and cut in large chunks.  I do not peel and prefer to get the nutrients and fiber, but that’s up to you. For a four-pound roast, you should have about six cups of cut veggies.

Mix the flour, pepper, and salt together and rub on roast. Heat oil in heavy Dutch Oven or deep skillet. Brown meat all over to seal (about 10-15 min.). Peel and slice large onion. Place onion slices on bottom of pan, like a bed for the meat, and place the meat on top. Add liquid. If using beer, drink remaining from bottle. Spread horseradish over top of roast. Cover tightly and cook slowly (simmer) on top of range (or wood stove) or in 325 degree oven. (If placing in oven, be sure handles are ovenproof.) Depending upon size and tenderness of roast, it will take four to five hours to cook. About one hour before the roast is done, add the vegetables. When the vegetables are done, remove meat and vegetables to warm serving platter. If desired, scrape horsradish off top of roast. If desired, make gravy from the remaining liquid. When serving, cut the meat against the grain.

The finished meal!

Let's eat!