Its snowed yesterday for the first time this fall. That is unremarkable for Minnesota. While the snow did not stick because the ground was too warm, it set off a giant alarm in my stomach. "OMG! TIME FOR POT ROAST!"
Pot roast uses an inexpensive and tough cut of beef like chuck roast. You have to braise it to cook it properly, as the goal of cooking pot roast is to have it come out moist and fall-apart tender. Well, I went old school yesterday and to my surprise, out came the most moist and tender pot roast I had ever tasted.
Growing up in a household where my mother was the exact polar opposite of Julia Child, I was used to being served meals that were shortcuts taken and experiments gone horribly wrong. The one exception to that were her pot roasts. Every pot roast she ever served came out perfect. That's because she discovered a shortcut that guaranteed perfection every time...the Reynolds Oven Cooking Bag.
I was rummaging through a drawer last week and there, in the very back of the drawer, I discovered a long ignored box of Reynolds Oven Cooking Bags. I made a note to summon the cooking specter known to the world as Joey Gruggen and conjure up a meal using that ancient recipe. The stars aligned as it snowed yesterday, so pot roast it was for dinner.
Using a Reynolds Oven Cooking bag could not be simpler. Toss a quarter cup of flour in the bag and shake it up. Add one envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, two-thirds cup of water, a quartered onion and a few cut carrots and potatoes. Seal the bag, make six small slits, then slide it into a 325º oven for 3 hours.
Now I made a couple of changes to that recipe. While Reynolds says just slide the raw roast in the bag, I'm a huge proponent of the Maillard Reaction, so I browned the roast first (an excellent choice, btw). Second, Lipton Onion Soup, to my palate, has an unnatural metallic taste to it. So instead I used a packet of Knorr Au Jus mix (for a more natural beef flavor). Finally, I substituted beef stock for the water for the exact same aforementioned reason.
As I stated previously, this yielded the best pot roast I have ever cooked. My mother may have been totally out of place in a kitchen, but she absolutely nailed it by using the Reynolds Oven Cooking Bag shortcut. After last night's meal, I don't think I will ever cook a pot roast any other way. But I did make a very serious error when I slid my pot roast into the oven....I had no beef gravy mix in my pantry. Pot roast with no gravy ranks right up there alongside wine containing no alcohol. Oh, the horror. But thanks to google and the Food Network Kitchen, I found an incredible beef gravy recipe that requires no drippings. Even the Anti-Julia could have nailed this gravy recipe with her eyes shut!
2 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 beef boullion cube, crushed
1 tablespoon heavy cream
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the first five ingredients.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
- Turn off heat and whisk in heavy cream.