I’m human, so I must eat to survive, and I’m human, so I have feelings that are sometimes uncomfortable, unexplainable or irrational. That combo of humanity means I often “eat” my emotions, whether it’s a celebratory bowl of chocolate mousse or a comforting hunk of tender pot roast. Sometimes the result is pure elation and deliciousness and sometimes the result is just more itchy feelings and extra pounds on my derriere. Oh, the conundrum in which I find myself…
As far as I know, humans are the only species on earth that eat not just to satiate hunger, but we eat when we’re happy, when we’re sad or when we’re just bored. I think it’s a pretty good assumption that our relationship with food is way more complex than that of say, a dog. If you have a dog that you feed the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even the same treats over and over again, you know what I’m talking about. No matter what I put in my dog’s bowl for meal time, she sits at my feet, staring up at me eagerly, and then goes to town chomping down a combo of kibble and mushy mystery meat, licking up all the juices left in the corners of her bowl. Every. Single. Day. And still she’s happy, satisfied and nourished. If all of us could have the life a dog…
Back to being human. Our food decisions are complex, and if eating was simply about refueling our bodies, we wouldn’t have obesity issues and eating disorders. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure there’s all sorts of synapses, releases and breakdowns, and chemical reactions going on inside our bodies and souls when we eat, triggering biological AND emotional sensations that make us eat even when we’re not hungry. Talk about complexity!
For me, cooking and eating is about creativity…creativity in the pan, on the plate and on the palate. It’s an expression of pure, simple love. And as I wrote in a previous blog, I find solace when I cook. When I’m feeling content and light, a well-composed salad with lots of color looks especially appealing. When I’m feeling sort of blah and unsettled, I love a good braised meat and veggie dish, and when I’m downright uncomfortable, a big ole pot roast feels like a giant hug from the inside out. What better food to fill me up, literally and figuratively, and nourish me at the same time?
Pot roast is just plain comfortable — what, with its marvelously tender texture contrasted with bright orange carrots (if everything is cooked well, of course); and with its warming-cooking-liquid-turned-meaty-broth, it just might be the ultimate comfort food. One bite of a perfectly cooked pot roast that effortlessly separates with just a fork, and my soul and my belly are reassured. Whether it was angst, distress or unease, it all just melts away with one simple bite. Any discomfort somehow tastes beefy, rich and delicious. I can’t think of a more perfect dish.
Perfect Midwestern Pot Roast
- 1 3-4 lb. beef chuck roast (either bone-in or boneless is fine)
- 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
- Lots of salt and pepper
- 32 oz. of chicken or beef broth
- 1 large onion cut into quarters
- 2 stalks of celery cut into two-inch pieces
- 3 carrots cut into two-inch pieces
- 1 bunch of fresh oregano
- 1 bunch of fresh rosemary
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into two pieces
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 small onion, cut into wedges
- 3 carrots and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 handfuls of small mixed potatoes
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Bring roast to room temperature and generously salt and pepper it. Heat oil in a large pan, preferably your crock pot pan if it’s heat-safe. Brown the roast on all sides (about five minutes per side). Transfer your pan to your crock pot and add broth through the garlic. Set your crock pot to high and leave for four hours, flipping the roast half way through cooking. Lower the heat to low and cook for another two hours, again flipping the roast half way through cooking.*
Remove the roast from the cooking liquid and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids (the veggies are mush at this point and sort of tasteless). Add the roast and reserved liquid back into your crock pot pan and add the fresh onion, carrots and potatoes. Cook in your crock pot another hour or until the veggies are tender to your liking. Serve roast pieces with cooked onions, carrots, potatoes and a ladle-full of broth.** Garnish with fresh parsley.
*Please note that every crock pot is different, so if you want to cook your roast over night or while you’re at work, set the temperature to low and leave it. It’s really hard to screw this up, so don’t stress if you’re not home to flip it or adjust the temperature.
**I prefer a thin broth-like gravy. If you want a thicker gravy, make a roux of flour and melted butter and whisk it into the cooking liquid once you’ve removed the roast to serve it. Cook for about 10 minutes, and it should incorporate, making the gravy a bit thicker.
By the way, I have to give a shout out to Snow Creek Ranch, a family ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. Plus, Snow Creek Ranch has roots in Kansas, and I have roots in Kansas, so I love them even more. They’re family owned and operated and raise their cattle humanely, “the old-fashioned way.” The hunk of meat I used in this recipe is a Snow Creek Ranch Larkspur roast. I bought one of their meat packages at the Denver South Pearl Street Farmers Market at end of the season, and I’m so glad I did!