NEW-FANGLED OLD-FASHIONED POT ROAST (U.S.)
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.