“Pot roast” is more of a cooking method rather than the name of a specific dish. Pot roast covers an array of dishes where tougher cuts of beef — stewing beef, in other words — are simmered in a pot, often with vegetables, until tender.
In this recipe, beef brisket is simmered with spices and herbs, not vegetables. Our herb and vegetable garden is in full bloom and it was just a perfect time to use the tarragon which had grown so much that the sprigs are starting to bow down with the weight of the leaves.
But before simmering the beef, it is first browned in butter. It’s not about sealing in juices. That’s a load of crap. It’s about allowing the natural sugars of the meat to caramelize (called the Maillard reaction) to add both flavor and color to the meat.
Once the meat has browned, the cooking liquid is poured in. Instead of plain water, we use chicken broth. Then, the herbs are spices are added and the long and slow cooking begins.
Why chicken broth? I know it sounds more logical to use beef bone broth but I find that when the brisket is done, the cooking liquid is too strong in both flavor and aroma. I use chicken broth instead.
Make the gravy after the beef is done. Move the meat to a plate and cover loosely with a foil tent to allow it to rest. Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid. That’s what you’ll use for the gravy.
Making the gravy begins with a roux. Equal amounts of butter and flour are cooked together until smooth and browned. You need to wait until the mixture is brown. Light or dark, it’s up to you, but it cannot be lighter. Brown roux means the flour has fried in the butter and you want that for a really tasty gravy. Only after the roux has reached that stage that the strained cooking liquid is added.
How much liquid you need depends on how thick you want your gravy. Less liquid means thicker gravy. Note, however, that the gravy thickens a bit as it cools.
By the time the gravy is done, the meat should have sufficiently rested and is ready to be sliced. To assemble the dish, place a heap of mashed potato on one side of each plate, arrange slices of pot roast next to it then drizzle in as much gravy as you like. Greens on the side? Optional.
Pot roast and gravy
Cook the pot roast
- Rinse the beef brisket and wipe dry with paper towels.
- Melt the butter in a heavy pan.
- Over high heat, brown the beef brisket in the butter, turning the meat every few minutes for even browning.
- Pour in the broth and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat and cover the pan tightly.
- Simmer the beef brisket for two to two-and-a-half hours or until fork tender.
- Scoop out the cooked beef and move to a plate. Cover the plate loosely with foil.
Make the gravy
- Strain the liquid in which the beef brisket was cooked.
- In a sauce pan, dump the butter and, as it melts, add all the flour.
- Cook the butter and flour, stirring, until amber colored.
- Ladle in the strained cooking liquid slowly with one hand while stirring with a spatula using your other hand.
- When the liquid has been incorporated, ladle in more, stirring to incorporate after each addition.
- Keep adding cooking liquid until your desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
- Taste, and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Assemble your pot roast and gravy
- Thinly slice the beef and arrange on plates with mashed potato on the side.
- Drizzle gravy on the sliced pot roast and mashed potato, and serve with more gravy on the side.