Something about winter weather makes my wife crave "roots" cookery (which sounds so much better than "Kentucky hillbilly"), so the other night when the Weather Service was talking about five-below by morning, she summoned a pot roast.

My instructions were clear: No fooling around with ingredients, no chile peppers or "fusion" Asian spices; but I could play with procedures if I wanted to, as long as the result was as good as, or better than, her mother used to make.

The verdict? This procedure passed the test.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a black cast-iron dutch oven. Mince 1 large onion (enough to make 1 cup) and 2 or 3 fat garlic cloves, and sautee them in the oil until they're soft and starting to brown. Then put in a chunk of pot-roast beef -- I used a 3 1/2 pound sirloin tip -- with plenty of salt and pepper, and cook it until it's thoroughly browned and the onions and garlic are turning dark. Pour in 2 cups hot beef stock, and add 2 carrots (peeled and cut into "coins"), 2 celery sticks (sliced thin), and 1 small onion, cut in half and then into quarters. Cover and place in a 300F oven to cook slowly for at least three hours, turning occasionally.

About 1 hour before it's ready, put in another sliced carrot and celery stick.

About 30 minutes before it's ready, peel a baking potato and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes; parboil them in salted water for five minutes, drain, and then add them to the roast.

This is no occasion for rare meat -- it's done when the roast is falling into dark, savory chunks so tender that you can eat them with a spoon, and the vegetables (except for the late additions) have resolved themselves into a gorgeous mosaic.

This went very nicely indeed with a St. Joseph, a simple dry red wine from the Northern Rhone, but it would also be most friendly to a hearty ale, maybe one of the many winter and holiday beers available at this season.