Waaaayyyy back in my single days, every now and then I'd have a young man come over to my place for dinner. If I let the occasion slip to my mom she'd always advise, "make pot roast. Men love pot roast."
To me, pot roast was something Marion Cunningham would make for Howard, Richie and Joanie (and Chuck, when he was around). It wasn't something you'd serve a hot date.
Instead, my roommate and I both favored a deeelicious chicken casserole that included cream of something soup and canned artichokes -- and we added our own gourmet flair by adding a half a can of wine (which was probably white zinfandel). How did it go over? Let's just say that the casserole was eventually renamed "Lose a Boyfriend Casserole."
I eventually wised up and learned how to cook a pot roast. By pot roast, I mean a chuck roast, cooked "low and slow" until it's fork tender, served with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. Sure enough, it's one of my husband's favorite meals. So if you'd like to cook your way into a good man's heart, I suggest this. (On the other hand, if you'd rather cook your way OUT of a guy's heart, I could probably dig up that chicken casserole recipe for you.)
The best pot roast is made in the slow cooker, but when I don't have my act together 10 hours before dinner is to be served, my fallback recipe is this one.
Old-fashioned Sunday Pot Roast with Vegetables and Brown Gravy
(Adapted from Heartland by Marcia Adams)
3 pounds chuck roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
3 large carrots, peeled and halved (or you can use a dozen or so baby-cut carrots)
4 cups beef stock or beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning beef
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning beef
6 small starchy white potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
A few drops Tabasco (to taste)
Preheat oven to 325. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in heavy roasting pan; add the meat and brown on all sides. Transfer the meat to a plate.
Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the celery, onion, and carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves, and ketchup. Return the meat to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for two hours.
Move the meat aside and stir in the thyme, salt and pepper. (At this point, the meat can be stored in the refrigerator until the next day.) Place the potatoes on the bottom of the pan, and rearrange the meat on top. Re-cover, and bake 45 minutes longer, or until the meat and potatoes are tender.
In a small bowl, mash the butter and flour together until a smooth paste is formed. Transfer the meat to a large heated platter (my favorite is Armetale, which can go in the oven), and using a slotted spoon, remove the carrots and potatoes and arrange them around the meat. (Of course, you can serve them all separately, as shown here.) Discard the onions, bay leaves, and celery. Defat the pan juices. Bring the pan juices to a boil over high heat, then whisk in the butter mixture by tablespoonfuls. Cook over high heat until the mixture forms a gravy, the reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. If desired, add Tabasco to taste. Ladle into a gravy boat and serve with the meat and veggies.