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Monday, October 3, 2011

Yankee Doodle Dandy

What exactly is Yankee Pot Roast?  Is it just pot roast with a cute name or is there something about this pot roast in particular that makes it different from all other pot roasts?

These are the kinds of things I ponder.  Scary, I know.  But I always kind of wondered about Yankee Pot Roast and its origins so I decided to (1) read up on the history of the Yankee Pot Roast, and (2) make one.

First for the history lesson.   We all know that those New Englanders were (and still have a reputation for being) a thrifty and practical bunch.   And what could be thriftier or more practical that cooking inexpensive ingredients over a low heat for a long time to bring our their best flavors?  Let's face it.  Chuck roast isn't sexy but cooked properly it can be quite delicious.  And, back in the day when the evening meal was cooked over burning wood, the cook could attend to other chores and still have dinner ready for the family at the end of the day.  You've just got to love those Yankees!

So, the long and short of it is that Yankee Pot Roast got its name from some of the virtues that New Englanders most value -- practicality and frugality.  Nothing wrong with that.
Yankee Pot Roast... Looks delicious even before it goes into the oven.

Now for making a Yankee Pot Roast.  There are a lot of recipes for Y.P.R. out there but they all rely on chuck roast, potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Some people like to add celery and some people use red wine instead of broth.  Some cooks prefer water in place of either broth or wine.  Most liked to use a little fresh thyme as well.

I decided to play around with a couple of recipes and see how my version of Y.P. R. stacked up.  That's the great thing about dishes like this one.  You can add whatever you like and see where it takes you.  Just cook it low and slow and you'll be just dandy.

Recipe:  Yankee Pot Roast


1/4 cup pure vegetable oil
3 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
One 3- to 4-pound chuck roast, tied
Flour for dredging
8  carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 ribs celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups hearty red wine
5 or 6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 rounded teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 rounded tablespoons flour


Preheat the oven to 300.

In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and saute the onions until golden. Thoroughly dredge the beef in the flour, covering all the surfaces. Add to the pan and brown on all sides. The flour may cause the onions to burn slightly. This is good and will add lots of flavor.  Remove the beef from the pot and set aside for a moment.   Add the garlic and saute quickly, about 1 minute.  Add the carrots, celery, beef broth, wine, thyme, black pepper, and salt to taste. Return the beef to the pot and bring to a slow boil.   Cover and place the pot in the oven.  Cook for  3 to 3 1/2 hours, turning the beef occasionally. Remove the carrots, potatoes, and celery when they are cooked and reserve.

When the beef is falling-apart tender, remove the pot from the oven.  Remove the beef from the broth. Remove the thyme sprigs. Knead the butter and 2 tablespoons flour together until thoroughly combined. Over a low heat on the stove, add the mixture to the broth and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a sauce the consistency of buttermilk. Remove from the heat.

To serve, slice the beef and arrange on a platter. Cover with some of the sauce. Put the remaining sauce in a bowl or gravy boat. Arrange the carrots, potatoes, and celery attractively on the beef platter. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if you like. Serve immediately.

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