When my sister emailed to ask if I had been abducted by aliens, I knew it had been too long since my last blog post. To be honest, I haven’t felt very chatty. The heat really gets me down, even when I stay in the house and I didn’t want to whine in public. Now I have something positive to say.
Several years ago, a restaurant opened here called Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro (or something like that). It was apparently started by someone who used to work at the Cheesecake Factory because a lot of the menu is the same. If you have ever been to either of them, they violate the number one rule of Robert Irvine, the Restaurant Impossible guy. He wants to see one page menus. Their menus are more like the phone book to a small town.
Being a discriminating diner (which I prefer to the derogatory picky-eater label other people try to stick on me), I want choices but when a restaurant offers every kind of food under the sun, I am suspect about how much of it could actually be prepared in their kitchen.
One of my favorite food groups is gravy, so when I saw the pot roast sandwich, that seemed like a good thing to try. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. They brought the gravy in a little bowl so I could dip every mouthful of my sandwich in it.
Having that sandwich for lunch meant I didn’t need to fix dinner. A scrambled egg or small salad was all I could manage even 6 hours later. I knew it was too much food but, oh my, it was the most wonderful of comfort foods. I exercised restraint and only went on special occasions, about 4 times a year.
Sadly, that was not enough to keep them in business and suddenly they were gone without warning. Where was I going to get my pot roast sandwich fix?
And so the experimenting began. I have made Yankee-style pot roast for years in a slow cooker but it never produced that thick, flavorful gravy that made me so happy. The first significant advance was when I brought home a stainless steel Dutch oven from my mother’s house. You wouldn’t think there would be such a difference between a slow cooker and a Dutch oven but the results were much more tasty.
The reason was simple. I could caramelize the onions and carrots, I could sauté the meat. The resulting flavors were a good start toward a more flavorful pot roast than the one I had been making.
The long, slow cooking seemed different in the Dutch oven. Plus I was able to thicken up the gravy easily in a pot that could be used on the stove and brought to a boil.
But the final secret came because I am an inveterate reader of recipes. I didn’t even save the recipe because it wasn’t a dish I would ever make, but the chef added oyster sauce to a meat dish. Not a Chinese dish, just an ordinary meat dish. I love Beef with Oyster Sauce, so I thought, why not?
It was perfect. I felt like I discovered uranium, solved a quadratic equation, mastered weightlessness. Only better – we could eat this whenever we wanted! You can, too. My recipe is below.
P.S. The original sandwich was picked up and dipped in gravy. I served mine open faced and ate it with a knife and fork. More gravy, less mess.
Pot Roast and Gravy
Prep time: about 30 minutes Cooking time: 3-5 hours, depending on meat
2-5 lbs London broil, chuck, sirloin – whatever cut you prefer. ** Trim fat off and use a metal needle-type tenderizer before rubbing with seasoning mix made from bulleted items below
- 2 tsps EACH salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard.
- 1 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
1 bouillon cube each beef and chicken, dissolved in 2 cups water (use actual broth if you prefer) Double to make more gravy
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 bag crinkle cut carrots
1 large sweet onion, chopped
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
4-6 segments of garlic, chopped, mashed or sliced
1/4 cup oyster sauce
3 heaping tsps of cornstarch dissolved in small amount of water (half a juice glass)
** I like the flavor of chuck best but it is so fatty, I spend a lot of time trimming. It also tends to just shred apart. Sometimes, that is what I want. I’ve never liked eye round but, if you do, it should work fine.
For the sandwiches:
your choice of bread. We used good quality sandwich rolls. French bread would work, too.
Mayo made with olive oil
In a Dutch oven, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil and add the chopped onion. Cook on medium for 5 minutes. Add carrot slices. Cook until the onion begins to brown slightly, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Remove vegetables to bowl.
While veggies are cooking, tenderize your meat and rub all over with your seasonings. If you set the piece on waxed paper when you begin, there is no messy clean up.
Turn heat up to medium high. Add meat to hot pot. Cook several minutes on each side, until the meat begins to show a good brown color.
Remove meat and add wine. I have a flat wooden stirrer that scrapes the brown off the pot easily. Add the bouillon/broth and the oyster sauce. Stir until blended. Put meat and vegetable mixture back in the pot. I made sure there was a layer of veggies on the bottom so the meat was surrounded by flavors.
Cover. You can reduce the heat to simmer on the stove or put the pot in the oven at 275F. The liquid should bubble gently but not boil. Depending on how thick your meat is, cook for 3-5 hours. The longer you cook, the more the meat will tend to fall apart. If you prefer to have actual slices, check it at 3 hours.
When the meat is done, remove carefully to a platter and let rest as you thicken the gravy. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to the liquid and vegetables in the Dutch oven. Turn the heat up until the mixture bubbles continuously. Stir occasionally. You can tell when it has thickened.
This can be made well in advance of dinner, even the previous day.
To serve as traditional pot roast, you can actually add potatoes while it is cooking, but I prefer to cook them in a pressure cooker or bake them in the oven.
To serve as sandwiches:
Slice the rolls open and warm in the oven. Here’s a tip. Put the rolls on a baking tray and slide into a cold oven. Turn on to 350F. When the timer beeps, turn the oven off and remove perfectly warmed bread.
Arrange the two halves of each roll on a plate. Add mayo to each piece and top with a generous portion of shredded iceberg lettuce. It will actually stay crisp.
Spoon the pot roast mixture over the bread, being sure to add enough gravy. Eat with a knife and fork.
Note: If you are watching cholesterol and calories, you trimmed the meat and added only 1 tbsp of fat to the pot roast. The mix has lots of veggies. You are using reduced fat mayo. Okay, it’s not a chicken salad, but if you eat one helping, this seems like a reasonable dinner to me.