Comfort food brings to mind different things for different people. For some, they crave creamy and decadent like mac n cheese or scalloped potatoes. Others associate pots of chili or a rich lasagna as a homey favorite.
One thing is clear, most are reminiscent of our childhoods and our Mother’s or Grandmother’s cooking. For me, it’s my Mom’s homestyle pot roast.
When I was growing up, my mother used a big harvest-orange-colored Le Creuset dutch oven to prepare soups, stews and braises. Her pot roast was one of my personal favorites. It wasn’t fancy, just hearty, warm and satisfying. With big chunks of carrots and celery and lots of tender mushrooms.
(Update: I’ve had several inquiries about whether a dutch oven is needed for this recipe. I have to say, yes. A quality dutch oven (my personal favorite) is very heavy and conducts heat evenly — which is essential for a good braise. This one will do the job without breaking the bank:
Lodge Logic Dutch Oven, otherwise, a slow cooker will work too.)
The sauce was a fragrant amalgam of red wine, broth and tomato paste with a healthy dose of fresh herbs thrown in.
I’ve added porcini mushroom powder for even more richness. It’s optional, but it adds a great umami boost to this homestyle pot roast — and it’s so easy to make. Just buzz dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder for a few seconds.
By the way, when I say spice grinder, I actually mean coffee grinder. I have two – one for coffee and the other for spices. This is my favorite
Krups Fast Touch Grinder Black 203-42 and it’s under $30.
A low oven does most of the heavy lifting for this meal, slowly braising and tenderizing the chuck roast.
Best of all, as it cooks, the whole house is filled with a meaty, heady aroma that makes your stomach growl with anticipation. I guarantee you won’t have any problem getting the family to the table if this is on the menu.
Make sure to serve it with some crusty bread to sop up all the juices. If you’re craving a homestyle pot roast, this is it!
Homestyle Pot Roast
On a cold rainy day, you want comfort food. This is it.
- 2 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper fresh ground
- 16 ounces button mushrooms thick sliced
- 1 medium onion peeled and sliced root to tip into eighths
- 4 carrots peeled and cut into 1" pieces
- 2 stalks celery cut into 1" pieces
- 4 small red skinned potatoes cut into quarters
- 1 1/4 cups beef broth
- 2/3 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried mushroom powder optional, see note
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme and 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
- 2 bay leaves
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat.
Use a paper towel to dry all the moisture off the chuck roast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sear the meat in the dutch oven for 3-4 minutes on each side, until it forms a nice crust. Transfer the meat to a platter and add the mushrooms with a sprinkle of salt.
Stir and place the lid on the pan until the mushrooms start to give up their liquid. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. When most of the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms, add the onions and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.
Add the chuck roast and any accumulated drippings back to the dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery and potatoes, thyme bundle and bay leaves.
Stir together the broth, red wine, tomato paste and mushroom powder if using. Pour over the vegetables. Cover and heat to boiling. Transfer the covered pot to the oven and braise for 2 1/2-3 hours until meat is tender.
Sometimes the dried mushrooms in my pantry go past the point of reconstituting in water and look more like a fossil from the cretaceous period than the aforementioned dried mushroom. I don't waste them, though. I make mushroom powder. To make mushroom powder, put dried mushrooms (like porcini) into a spice grinder and pulse until a fine powder forms. Store in an airtight container. Whenever I want to add more umami flavor to a braised dish, I add a tablespoon or two of mushroom powder. Delish!