Easy Beef Pot Roast

When we were growing up, we had a beef pot roast at least once a week.  Mom’s beef pot roasts were simple affairs made with chuck roast, water, vegetables, a bay leaf and salt and pepper.  Simple though they were, they tasted wonderful, especially with fresh rolls and plenty of butter.

Later, when Bob and I shared an apartment at Madison, we experimented with different spices and cooking liquids.  I blush to admit it, but we liked pretty much every variation we tried.  Perhaps we were better cooks than we thought, though it might be more accurate to say that we were better eaters.  The recipe below is one that Jerri and I have used for many years, and it still tastes good to us and our guests.

If you have to do the dishes, you will appreciate a pot roast made on top of the stove.  The meat, potatoes and vegetables cook in one pan.  By varying your cooking liquid you can achieve the flavor you like best.


2 1/2 to 3 lb. beef chuck roast
1/2 cup dry red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 medium onion
4 to 5 carrots
3 to 4 potatoes
1 1/2 T cornstarch


Trim excess fat from the meat.  Put the trimmings in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid and render the fat scraps until you have coated the bottom and sides of skillet with the rendered fat.  Discard the trimmings.  Turn the heat up and brown the roast in the hot pan on all sides.  Drain any excess fat after the meat is browned.

Turn down the heat, sprinkle the salt and grind the pepper over the meat.  Add 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water along with the bay leaf, cloves and bouillon cube.  Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  Check once or twice to make certain that the liquid does not boil away.  Add a small amount of wine or water if necessary.

Peel and cut the onion into thick slices and place them on top of the meat.  Peel and quarter the potatoes and clean and cut the carrots into 2 inch pieces.  Place them around the meat in the skillet.  Shake a little salt on the vegetables.  Cook until the vegetables are done, about half an hour.  Remove the meat and vegetables and keep them warm.  To make the gravy add water or a combination of water and wine to make about 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water, stir into the pan and cook until clear.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Slice the meat and pass it with the vegetables and gravy.  Serve with more of the wine used to cook the roast accompanied by a green salad and fresh bread.

VARIATIONS:  Use red port wine and about 1/4 tsp. basil instead of the burgundy and bay leaf.  Or substitute beer for the burgundy.  If you want a little more zip, add a couple of dashes of cayenne or hot sauce.


Onions on the Grill

Late July but it’s forty-five degrees and raining. It feels like snow is on the way. Even the bears have taken cover. We are huddling around a fire in front of a primitive cabin on an island in the Gulf of Alaska. For a fire pit someone long ago hauled rocks up from the shore. There is a blackened grill balanced on the rocks, and on the grill are six aluminum foil packages looking like giant Hershey’s Kisses. Chuck is roasting onions.

When we were making the list of things to buy for that fishing trip to Alaska oh so many years ago, Chuck, the camp chef, (not me) included five pounds of onions. As the new guy in the group, I asked whether five pounds might be more than we needed. The gang told me that we needed at least that many. “Chuck is a genius with onions. You’ll see.” And I did.

Here is how Chuck cooked onions on the grill on Afognak Island.


Onions (about 3 inches in diameter are best)
Seasoned salt


Plan on one onion for each hungry fisherman. Cut off the tops and bottoms and peel the outer layer from each onion. Make two right angle cuts in the top of each onion; don’t cut the onion in quarters, but cut deeply enough that you can open the top of the onion about a half inch. Put about two teaspoons of butter in the opening and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Wrap the onions in aluminum foil, finishing off the wrap by twisting it into a “handle” on top. Set on the grill over moderate heat. Cook about 20 minutes.

NOTES: If you have used enough aluminum foil, you will end up with onions that look like big Hershey’s Kisses. We like onions on the grill when we have hamburgers or steaks. I put the onions over the edge of the coals about ten minutes before starting the meat and use the “handles” to rotate the onions so they cook without burning. Larger onions need to cook longer.