Mrs. Bailey’s Pot Roast

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Talk about one pot cooking with an absolutely filling, flavorsome taste… this is it! It all started when my boss brought in his lunch made from leftovers from what I presume was Sunday’s dinner. Only it looked nothing like leftovers. The aromatic scent of beef pot roast filled my nose and immediately tugged at my appetite; I was having this sorry little excuse of a salad for lunch. He had succulent slices of beef surrounded with big chunks of potato and carrots all tantalizingly garnished with shiny brown gravy. To top it all, he was eating it with as much gusto as you would expect any self –respecting down home cooked meal to be eaten. Anyway I think I stared at his food long enough for him to offer me a bite and let me tell you it tasted as good as it looked! Anyway his wonderful mother-in-law, Mrs. Bailey, was kind enough to share the recipe.

3-4 lbs chuck roast (1.5 to 2 kg)

2 tbs vegetable oil or olive oil (30ml)

½ cup catsup   (120ml)

½ cup beef broth  (120ml)

2 tbs red wine vinegar (30ml)

2 tbs balsamic vinegar (30ml)

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce (30ml)

1 tsp dried whole rosemary

1 tsp salt

2 medium onions

5-6 potatoes

5-6 carrots

Brown roast on all sides in the hot oil. Combine next 7 ingredients, pour over the roast. Add the onions, cut in large pieces. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add the potatoes and carrots cut in large chunks. Cover and cook slowly until carrots and potatoes are done about 30 minutes or more.

I made this pot roast countless of times and surmised that a chuck eye roast is the best cut of meat for this. It had enough fat and connective tissue necessary to produce a tender and flavorful roast. A variation of cooking technique which I now exclusively use for braising is just putting it in the oven at 300 °F. I find that I can control the temperature better with this method rather than simmering on a stove top. Meat dries out as it is cooked because moisture is being wrung out of its muscle fibers. If it is cooked at too high a temperature wherein the muscle fibers are cooked dry but the connective tissue composed mainly of collagen has not dissolved yet, then you end up with dry stringy meat. The muscle fibers begin to lose moisture at 120 ° F and the connective tissue starts to break down into gelatin, the substance responsible for tender meat and thick sauces, at 140 °F. I have found from Cook’s Illustrated (March & April 2002), that the magic number is 300 °F. The pot roast cooks in 2 ½ hours and is fork tender. Any temperature higher than this would most likely yield a dry stringy texture since the exterior would be cooked sooner before the interior would have a chance to become tender. (NOTE: I have not tried the "oven method" with poultry or pork, only with beef and lamb)

I find that making it a day ahead (which seems to be my mantra nowadays) allows the flavor to blend so well that no ingredient overpowers the other; you just end up with a very complex mouthfeel of the roast.

Also feel free to experiment with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. I’ve also added a bay leaf in my last preparation. Of course as with all roasts, it is important to let the meat rest before slicing it up. That way the juices have a chance to get reabsorbed back into the meat.

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6 thoughts on “Mrs. Bailey’s Pot Roast

  1. I have utmost respect for Mrs. Bailey and her recipe. It has been a hot hit in our household, I'm glad my wife's boss who used to be my boss a few years back, felt like sharing this great dish with my wife! I enjoyed the last pieces of the leftover today and it even tastes better. Definitely cook it a day or 2 ahead for a more complex taste.

  2. Veronica, thank you for this post. I am a vegetarian without an oven and missing my roast veggies. So your post has inspired me that I can actually do the roast on the stove top and it never occurred to me to add the extra flavors of vinegars and sauces. I am off to the kitchen to experiment. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. OK so I tried the roast vegetables with great success. This is what i did… Peeled and chopped 1 large potato and 1 medium sweet potato in large cubes. Peeled and quartered 2 onions. peeled 4 cloves of garlic and kept whole.

    Then in my big pot I heated the oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pot, and added all the vegetables and browned the sides. Then I added 1 cup of vegetable stock and turned down to low/medium and let cook.

    Then I thought I needed to have something with it so I looked in the fridge and found some lovely green beans and mushroom. So cut these up grabbed some fresh coriander from the garden and lightly stir fried these together and at the last minute threw in the coriander, this took about 2 mins.

    The roast vegetables took about 12 minutes and I put these on the plate first and the onions had caramelized – yum! There was a little juice/oil left filled with the flavors so I drizzled this on top. They I put the mushrooms, beans and coriander on top of that.

    It is definitely a benefit of being vegetarian that meals are very quick to make. The meal was delicious and filling.

    In making again I would add an extra onion as the caramelized flavor really added to the dish. Rosemary would also be good though not growing yet in the garden so will try that when it comes up.

    I also though another alternative for breakfast is instead of the beans… in your fry pan on one side cook up the mushrooms and on the other fry an egg and you would be putting a runny fried egg and mushrooms on top of your roast vegetables. Delicious!

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