When I was a child, my mother made pot roast for dinner every Sunday. Made in a big blue roasting pan and surrounded with carefully scraped carrots, potatoes and onions. There was no garlic (unheard of), no parsley or mushrooms (ditto), and no fancified vegetables like parsnips. It was just plain food, cooked in a slow oven and expected to feed our family not only for Sunday dinner, but into the week as the parts were repurposed – as we say.
My mom and dad both worked downtown then. My dad at the local shoe store, and my mom as the bookkeeper at Penney’s. It was just past the war, and we were just glad to be a family. I was an early latch key kid, an only child who came home after school to a cooling house with a dog I could play with, plenty of books to read, and a refrigerator full of real food I could make myself a snack from. Mostly, I ate cold hard-boiled eggs, or peanut butter and homemade pickle sandwiches on Mama’s home made bread.
Monday, my dad, who made the best gravy would make some toast and we’d have slices of roast beef on toast with left over mashed veggies and smothered in that divine gravy. Ditto for Tuesday, then for its final iteration, on Wednesday, the remains would be chopped, including the vegetables and dumped into a pot with the gravy, a little water and heated for what our family called “Hash”.
The meat came from a farm butcher, the potatoes, carrots and onions came from a gunny sack under the house. My dad would trade work for these veggies and keep them from freezing by putting them in a spot on the ground under the house, away from that relentless Texas wind that blew straight down from the North pole.
A lot of times, my dad would look fondly at mother across the table and comment, “I bet President Truman isn’t eating this good tonight.”
We’ve made a long journey from those simple family suppers, and now, in order to get the same results, I make a special buy of grass fed beef from Ted Slanker at www.texasgrassfedbeef.com, I buy the vegetables from a farm stand that sells organics only, and I do add garlic, mushrooms and cracked black pepper. I have relearned how to cook the grass-fed beef of my childhood. Low and slow. But its the same wholesome food that helped me to grow into a healthy adult. I intend for it to help me now to grow into a healthy old age. Of course, now I’m careful about portions. I only eat a piece of meat the size of the palm of my hand, about 3 ounces, and about a cup of vegetables and gravy. It’s plenty.
Mama’s Beef Pot Roast and Roasted Root Vegetables Redux Recipe
makes 8-10 servings
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 4-5 pound boneless grass-fed beef chuck roast, tied
1/4 pound slab bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then into 1×1/2-inch rectangles
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup Swanson’s chicken broth
2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
12 small shallots, peeled
12 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
8 thin long carrots (about 1 pound), peeled
3 medium parsnips (about 1 pound), peeled
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
1 pint brown mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Rub spice blend all over the beef.
Cook bacon in heavy large ovenproof roaster over medium heat until browned and lightly crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from the pot. Increase heat to medium-high. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides, turning with tongs, about 12 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate. Add red wine to the pot; bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Add broth and bacon. Make a ladder by crossing the carrots and parsnips and potatoes. Place beef on the ladder. Scatter onions, shallots, mushrooms, garlic, and bay leaves around beef.
Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and roast 1 hour. Carefully turn the beef over using tongs; stir the onions. Cover and roast until beef and vegetables are tender, about 1-1/2 hours more, adding water by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Transfer beef and vegetables to a platter. Spoon off fat from surface of the pan drippings. Discard bay leaf. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over beef, garnish with parsley and serve.