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My friend Sam runs discussion dinners every month here in Austin. She let me host this past one, and I chose “family” as the theme. As a part of the theme, I asked everyone to prepare a family recipe and bring it for a potluck. Since I recently made jambalaya on a whim, I decided to pull from Mom’s side of the family and prepare pot roast.

I knew Mom submitted a few recipes for the LeBlanc Family Cookbook. I thought I remembered seeing her pot roast in there, so I started looking. After three or four attempts, I couldn’t find it. “Maybe she submitted it to the church cookbook,” I thought. So I pulled out the church cookbook and started scanning for her recipe there. No luck. Finally, I just decided to text her and ask her where the recipe was.

She texted back “Well, bless your heart! I’ve never published it.” That explains a lot :)

Later on after a thunderstorm cleared, Mom got on the computer, typed up her pot roast recipe, and sent it over. Her recipe is very technique oriented and doesn’t have super exact measurements, which made it all the more fun to follow!

The variation on this recipe involved the roast itself. Her recipe calls for a 3-4 pound chuck roast. When I went to the grocery store, I picked up all of the other ingredients for the pot roast, then made my way to the meat counter. I scanned the selection several times until I found the chuck roast at the very end.

When I asked the manager about chuck roast she mentioned they rotate it out with another cut of meat. Grateful I was there on chuck roast week, I asked for the roast I spotted at the top of the tray. She placed it on the scale and it came out to 1.70 pounds.

Hmmm. Even though that’s just barely half of the size Mom’s recipe calls for, I decide to go with it. I’m only preparing 4-6 servings, so we should have enough food either way.

On the day of discussion dinner, I started off by searing my meat on one side according to Mom’s directions. Then I flip it over and season.

Chuck roast roasting in pot.

Next, I get some onions ready to throw into the pot.

These are onions.

In the midst of preparing dinner, I realized I was low on paper plates. I was also concerned that the pot roast might not generate enough juices for the gravy. I went back to the grocery store while the pot roast cooked. After finding plates, I also picked up a product with a brand name I won’t mention, but it claims to be superior to what many would call “bouillon.”

Upon returning to the kitchen, I get the vegetables ready. I’ve cut up an entire pound of carrots, and about 5 red potatoes.

Bowl of veggies, ready to go.

When the roast is more or less done, I start putting the veggies into the pot. The onions have not entirely disintegrated, so I don’t add any more. However, I realize I have way more veggies than can reasonably cook in this pot, so I improvise.

Not quite enough room for everything.

Sam is coming by in a little over an hour and will need the oven for what she’s bringing, so I decide to make a rush for roasting the remaining veggies before she arrives.

I cut up another onion to add to the remaining vegetables. Then I throw all of it into a broiler pan and top with olive oil, salt, and an Italian herb mix. I’m relying on my fall back for whenever I want to cook something that’s going to take a while to break down: I start by preheating the oven as high as it will go, put in the food for a few minutes, then kick down the temperature to a more appropriate level (in this case, around 450ºF). I tossed the veggies around about halfway through cooking, then pulled them out after 45 minutes.

Roasted potatoes, carrots, and onions... with time to spare.

While the vegetables roasted, I let the vegetables in the pot soften. Once they were done, I pulled everything out except for the pot roast juices.

The chuck roast and onions left some nice juices, but I was hoping for more.

I tasted the juices and they seemed just right, but I knew I was going to want plenty of gravy for my guests. I ended up extending it a couple of times with about 2-3 cups of water, a tablespoon of the bouillonesque product, and a few teaspoons of cornstarch. I mixed the cornstarch and water together with a plastic container, adding it to the juices in batches. Once I had the consistency and flavor I wanted, I cut the heat and let it sit.

Dinner's ready!

I got many compliments on this dinner. Everything tasted just about the way it does when Mom makes it. If I were to do anything differently, I probably would have laid off extending the gravy so much. There wasn’t anything wrong with it flavor or texture-wise, I just ended up with way more leftover gravy than I realized I would!

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Joe LeBlanc


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Joe in Austin

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