The Queen of Chuck {mama’s pot roast}

Whilst contemplating what I should cook this year to celebrate my mom’s birthday (eleven days ago, now), it occurred to me that a large majority of what she would make for us involved a chuck roast. With the exception of chicken and yellow rice, almost all of the family recipes I can think of involved either a whole roast or ground chuck. Mom’s spaghetti sauce? Ground chuck. Vegetable soup? Chuck roast. Chili? Ground chuck. And now this – pot roast. Guess what we’ll be using. Chuck roast.

Had I been aware of this abundance of specific-cow-part as a teen, there is no way that I wouldn’t have just straight up called my mom Chuck. She would have hated it but I would have done it anyway. I probably would have only called her Chuck in public, to really make it sting, and then called her mom at home. At first she would have laughed, and then I would have stuck with it and just kept calling her Chuck until one afternoon, when she was already mad about something (“your father” or “your sister” or “your brother” perhaps), I would have called her Chuck one too many times and she would have snapped.

I would then apologize and tell her that I didn’t realize that it would make her so upset if I called her Chuck and then roll my eyes wondering how she could get mad about that all the while knowing that the reason I was doing it was to press her buttons.

Isn’t that how mother-daughter relationships are supposed to work? Wouldn’t I love the chance to find out.

In celebration of mom’s birthday this year, once again, I broke out my good friend chuck and despite the husband’s protestations (which were later recanted), made up some old school pot roast. This ain’t sexy folks. This isn’t dinner party food and as you’ll soon see, it definitely isn’t the best subject for food photography (how do you make stewed meat look good?). What it is, however, is delicious. It’s warm and familiar and tastes like something you should eat on a cold, rainy afternoon. It’s also ridiculously easy, which is probably the best part of all. I’m sure you could adapt this recipe for a slow cooker if you prefer; I just decided to use my oven and a big covered casserole dish and leave it at that.

Here’s the gist:

  • 1 3-4 lb. chuck roast
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 4 carrots, chopped large
  • 1 lb. small potatoes of your choosing (I used baby Yukon golds)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 300°F and grab a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with a lid. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the chuck roast on both sides. While things are browning, chop up your veg.

Remove the chuck roast from the pot and set on a plate until you need it. Which you will in a few minutes.

If there is a ton of fat at the bottom of the Dutch oven, go ahead and dump it out. If it’s a reasonable amount (say, a tablespoon or so), leave it in there so you can coat the veggies. Keeping the pot over medium to medium-high heat, add the onion and carrots to the dutch oven and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until they get a bit of color on them from grabbing the tasty bits on the bottom of the pot.

Now it’s time to snuggle the chuck roast back in with the onions and carrots. Cover the vegetables and meat with water (probably 2-3 cups) and bring to a boil on the stove top. Cover and put in the preheated oven to cook for about 3 hours.

You might think that I have forgotten about the potatoes but I’ll have you know that I haven’t. Like I recommended with the vegetable soup, don’t add your potatoes until later on in the process so they don’t completely break down. When you’re about an hour away from eating, add the washed whole potatoes to the pot, cover, and cook for another hour until they’re tender.

There are two ways to approach the serving of this dish. Each starts with skimming off as much fat from the pot roast as possible. As you can see from the photo above, there is a glistening slick of meat oil that has accumulated at the surface like the world’s most delicious environmental tragedy. (How about that for a simile?)

Option one (the way we did it growing up): Grab some tongs and pull out some meat, onions, carrots and potatoes and put in a bowl. Spoon some tasty cooking liquid on top. Eat.

Option two (for a husband that likes order and thicker sauces): Remove everything from the pot, leaving only the cooking liquid and any bits of onion that may have broken down. In a separate container, mix together 1 tablespoon of corn starch with a couple of tablespoons of cold water. With the Dutch oven on the stove top, raise the heat to medium and when things begin to bubble, pour in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk. This should thicken up the sauce to a more gravy-like consistency.

Grab a shallow bowl and layer on your potatoes, onions, carrots and meat and top with the gravy. Photograph begrudgingly and then serve.

Here’s to mom (Chuck) and chuck.