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Pot roast help, please

I just made a Kraft recipe for "Prairieland Pot Roast" that involved pouring a bottle of Catalina dressing over the meat, potatoes, onions, and carrots. My husband thought it was great (he likes anything), but I didn't care for the tangy flavor of the Catalina. And that got me to thinking that I don't like ANY beef stew or pot roast recipe I've ever tried. I just want it to taste like meat in gravy, but every stew or pot roast has some kind of sharpish flavor that I don't like. Is it the addition of the vegetables that changes the taste so much?

Anyone out there have a pot roast recipe that might satisfy a picky eater like me? Don't want to make you sophisticated Chowhounders groan, but Cracker Barrel has an open face roast beef sandwich that I'm assuming is made like a pot roast--very moist meat and onions with a thin gravy. Guess that's what I want pot roast to taste like, but I have no idea how to accomplish. I'd like to stretch the dish with potatoes and carrots, but don't want the carrots to affect the flavor--is that impossible?

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  1. I find that a lot of onions cooked in with the meat gives it a flavor I don't care for. Love onions, and if I carmelize them separately and stir them in later, I like that. But long cooking in with the beef doesn't suit my tastes.

    1. My Grandmother made her the old Yankee way: with onions, potato, carrot and water. Salt and pepper that's it. If you go up to at least halfway up the roast, it should leave enough of a thin gravy to coat all of the meat and vegs and about a half pound of cooked spaghetti, the other thing she always did. It's deliciously simple.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Phurstluv

        I would start with something basic like this, and work from there to see how replacing part or all of the water with stock and/or wine impacts the flavor. If it still tastes bitter or sharp to you, I'd borrow a page from weezycom and caramelize a bunch of onions, stirring them into the broth for the last 20 minutes or so...

        1. re: Phurstluv

          And if you want a beefier flavor, use beef broth or stock in place of the water.

        2. The carrots should add a sweetness that counteracts whatever sharp flavors you're tasting, and they're mild enough that they shouldn't really impact the flavor in a distinctly noticable way. That said, if you really want to ensure they don't impart anything at all, just saute or roast them separately and stir them in at the end, or even into each serving.

          1. Just wondering...have you ever tried using some nice red wine in your pot roast? and some good quality beef stock? Those 2 together along with your aromatic veggies and some herbs should do you good and make a rich flavorful pot roast...maybe some tomato paste for thickening...but, sheesh...a WHOLE bottle of Catalina dressing? The number 1 ingredient is high fructose corn syrup! Not trying to start a war with the "what's-so-wrong-with-high-fructose-corn-syrup" crowd, it might as well be pure sugar but if that's the first ingredient...no wonder the flavor is sharp.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Val

              Well, this IS a Kraft recipe. ;-) But I like your suggestion of red wine and beef stock. I'll try that next time. I've never liked bottled salad dressings, so I don't know why I thought it would taste good in a pot roast.

              Don't want to sound completely ignorant here (but I am): do you use cooking wine or a real red wine?

              1. re: Birmingham

                No, it's GOOD to ask questions!!! always good! A decent burgundy would work, even a zinfandel...you could probably find one under $10...if you don't drink red wine, maybe freeze the remainder of the bottle for future cooking uses...you would only need 1/2 or at most, 1 cup depending on size of roast. Definitely go with real wine, you'll be good to go...I think...the wine even could present too much tanginess but I think it lends more of a rich flavor myself especially with beef stock or broth.

                1. re: Val

                  My husband and I are just remembering that there was some beef recipe I made about 10 years ago with red wine in it that we absolutely loved. You can see how much we use wine in cooking. ;-) I'm going to go through my cookbooks and see if I can find what it was. Maybe it was a pot roast.... Wonder why I stopped making it.

                  Thanks for that tip on freezing the wine, too. That's what keeps me from using real wine in cooking--it would just go to waste. (Neither of us can take the sulfites.)

                2. re: Birmingham

                  Step AWAY from the cooking wine. :-) It's loaded with sodium. Always go with a wine you'd drink. Wine and beef stock are two good liquids to use for a nice pot roast.

                3. re: Val

                  I use this recipe, and thought it was a good start, but was missing something.

                  Instead of the water, use beef broth or stock. I use maybe 1/8 cup for each side when browning the roast, and then mix in a big squirt (maybe another 1/8-1/4 cup?) of the dressing to the broth and stir, then add in. Also, a cup or 2 of wine is added to the simmering liquid.

                  I am not a huge salad dressing fan, especially Catalina, but it gives a depth of flavor to the recipe that doesn't taste like salad dressing. Just having the dressing and water... leaves much to be desired. The braising liquid is the problem in this recipe.

                4. The number one pot roast (and soup) killer for me is not sauteeing the onions first. I will not eat a soup or stew where the onions have simply been tossed into the broth without being sauteed in butter or oil first. They give a really sharp, unpleasant flavor that overpowers the rest of the dish. If you don't already do this, brown your meat, remove it, then brown your onions and other veggies in the meat drippings until the onion is tender, and then proceed with the recipe.

                  If you already do this, then I suggest cutting back on whatever acid your recipe calls for or thinning it with some beef broth. I don't like bottled dressings in general, not because I'm a snob, but because they often contain a very acidic preservative, such as sodium benzoate, that really makes it bitter.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Isolda

                    Ah! I didn't sautee the onions this time as I did last time--and I did like it much better last time than today's version. I'm still gonna skip the dressing--but I'll be sure to sautee the onions first. Thanks so much for that tip, Isolda!

                    1. re: Birmingham

                      yes yes yes...saute those onions first along with your other aromatics, carrots, celery etc. It will mellow out the flavor of the onions for sure!