I like pot roasts for a number of reasons. First, everything cooks in one pot, so cleanup is easier. Second, cooking a roast on top of the range doesn’t heat up the house as much as roasting it in the oven, which is very important in the summer if you live in a house without central air conditioning. Third, braising the meat with liquid over gentle heat will guarantee a moist and tender roast. Fourth, the liquid you choose can add more complexity to the flavor than even the best rub. Fifth, I love the aroma of a pot roast simmering on the stove. And sixth, it reminds me of the many pot roasts my mother fed us when I was growing up.
Maybe I should reverse the order of the reasons, but I have friends whose mother’s never welcomed their sons or daughters home from school into a kitchen perfumed by a good pot roast cooking for supper. Some of them never even had freshly baked cookies or bread warm from the oven with butter and homemade jams and jellies. I was lucky in that way.
My mother made pot roasts with beef, pork, venison and even once with meat from a bear we had bagged, which was one of her few disasters. Here is a reference describing some problems we had in trying to cook bear meat. I don’t think that my mother ever wrote down recipes for different kinds of pot roasts, and by the time I was born, she had already been cooking them so long that I doubt she ever looked in a cookbook for a pot roast recipe. She did occasionally try one from Woman’s Day or another magazine or newspaper, but usually she trusted her instincts, which were pretty good.
I doubt that she ever consciously used the combination of spices known as Herbes de Provence in anything, but her spice cabinet had most of the herbs used in this famous blend. The herbs vary somewhat from blend to blend, but they all are from plants that grow well in the mild Mediterranean climate of the region.
The herbs, wine and vegetables work together to make this a delicious one-dish meal.
1 tsp. olive oil
3 – 4 lb. pork shoulder roast
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. summer savory
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 – 4 potatoes
4 – 5 carrots
Extra dash of salt
2 T corn starch dissolved in a quarter cup of cold water
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. brown gravy sauce (optional)
Clean and chop the onion into a quarter-inch dice and set it aside in a small bowl. Remove the paper and stem ends from the garlic cloves and mince them. Add the garlic to the onion. Trim any excess fat from the meat.
Put a large skillet or Dutch oven over moderate heat and film the bottom with a little olive oil. Brown the meat on all sides. Put the water, wine and bouillon cube into the pan. Arrange the onion, garlic and bay leaf on and around the meat, then sprinkle the salt and spices evenly over the meat and vegetables.
Cover the pan and bring it to a simmer. Cook the roast for one and a half hours. Check every twenty minutes or so to make sure that the roast is still surrounded by liquid. If necessary, add equal amounts of water and wine.
Clean the potatoes and carrots while the roast is cooking. I chop the carrots into two-inch pieces and slice the larger carrots in half lengthwise. Chop the potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on the size.
Arrange the potatoes and carrots around the meat and sprinkle the vegetables with a little salt. Cover and cook for half an hour, then check the vegetables for doneness with a fork. Feel free to cook them a little longer if they still feel hard when you pierce them.
Remove the meat, potatoes and carrots from the pan and take the pan from the heat while you dissolve the corn starch in cold water. If necessary, add enough water and wine to make two cups of liquid. Stir the corn starch mixture into the roasting liquid and return the pan to the heat to make the gravy. Stir constantly until the gravy is clear and thickened. Add a few drops of brown gravy sauce if you want more color.
Taste and adjust the seasoning.