“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.” -Molly Wizenberg
A cold and snowy day. Adam did not awake in the greatest of moods. Nor did I, for that matter because of the awful weather. So, I thought I’d make a homey pot roast since we both could use something warm and comforting in our midwinter slump. But now, I am sitting here, writing this, tortured. Not like hostage/prison tortured, but olfactory kind of driving-me-crazy torment. The roast’s been in the slow cooker for a while and the aromas are so tantalizing, so luscious, that it’s hard to concentrate on anything for any length of time. As my stomach grumbles in mad anticipation, suddenly, unexpectedly, I feel nostalgic, almost sad. I go to check on how much longer the timer has, and although I am the only soul in the house, I know that I am not alone. I pour myself a glass of wine and walk over to the bank of windows that overlooks our waterfall. I’m moved by the beauty of the frosty scene and marvel at the quiet – as if the world is hushed by the gently twisting and twirling flakes. I close my eyes, inhale long and deep. My nose becomes an emotional time machine that mysteriously triggers memory of love and food – and as I breathe in the scented air once more, thoughts of my childhood home flood my mind and I am transported.
I’m eight and the family is getting ready for church, putting on our Sunday best. Mom just put the roast on. Sundays always meant pot roast. In those days of innocence, we leave the house with the oven on and without locking our door. We return several hours later, devotionally recharged and ravenous, to the enticing smell of slow-cooked meat.
I walk back into my kitchen and as I pull the roast out and place it on the cutting board, I look around. I see my parents, my grandparents, my uncles, my sisters, my brother, my nieces and nephews and all my friends and family who have ever gathered and cooked together, laughed together, dined together, cried together, washed dishes together. And I realized that they’re all always in there with me. I lean down and take another glorious whiff of the pot roast. Oh, that smell! The beefiness, the red wine, the thyme, the vegetables – the nuanced flavor so intense it really gets your saliva glands going. It wrapped around me like a big bear hug – you know, the kind of hug that can just turn your whole day around. And softly, smiling, I whisper one word, “Home.”
Not only is this roast delicious, but it’s a throw-it-in-and-forget-about-it recipe. Layer some onions, garlic and potatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker. Put the roast right on top – no searing, no browning. Throw some carrots and seasoning in there and push play. Ten hours later, you’ll be rewarded with meltingly tender beef bathed in a voluptuous sauce. Who wouldn’t want that on a blustery day?
Sunday-Best Pot Roast
- 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 to 8 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and halved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (4-pound) boneless sirloin tip roast
- 1 cup hearty red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 6 carrots, peeled
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- Place the onions, garlic and potatoes in the bottom of a slow cooker. Season with some salt and pepper. Pat the roast dry and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Place the roast on top of the vegetables. In a large glass measure, combine the wine, stock, tomato paste, vinegar, bay leaves and thyme. Pour into the slow cooker. Place the carrots on top of the roast; cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
- Transfer the roast and carrots from the slow cooker to a cutting board. Fish out the bay leaves and discard.
- Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook on high for several minutes until the sauce has thickened. Slice the beef and serve with the vegetables and gravy.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: You can make this a day in advance. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Gently rewarm on the stove.
Product Purity: I use organic beef broth without added MSG.
Presentation: As a food stylist, I am always looking for ways to bump up presentation and I think leaving the carrots whole elevates this humble dish to something elegant. I place them on top of the roast to help them retain their color while they cook. Plate your roast with the vegetables on each side, spoon over some gravy and sprinkle everything with a little fresh minced parsley.