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Best base (onion soup mix, etc.) for a good pot roast??

So, I have some simple recipes I've tuned involving some red wine, an oven bag, flour, water, onion soup mix, a bunch of veggies, and, of course, the star of the show- the roast. Real simple- throw them all in, mush it around, ~2 hours later, bam, dinner.

The thing I'm realizing though is that the onion soup mix is far, far and away the weak link in the chain. I can use great meat and veggies, but the fact remains that Lipton's, Knox, etc. basically taste like cheap boxed powdered soup, and the results can be tasted.

What is a better alternative? What I can use instead of this powdered swill to make a dynamite pot roast in such a fashion??

Thanks guys!!

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  1. Please do not use the words "powdered swill" to refer to the key ingredient of my mother's Sunday pot roast. However it is easy to create an alternative - here's an example:
    If you don't want the tomato paste flavor, just leave it out.

    1. uh oh, my mom used that powdered swill and i liked it.

      1. I use onions, lots of onions and some garlic. I also slather it with tomato paste, which can easily be left out but which really does not taste tomatoey.

        2 Replies
        1. re: magiesmom

          i wonder if a lot of dried onions would bring additional intensity because of the concentrated onion flavor?

          1. re: alkapal

            Maybe. The eight onions I use do a great job and lend a freshness

        2. I use lots of sliced onions and a tablespoon or two of Chef's Delight beef soup base.

          1. *hides in shame* ...I used that powdered swill and I also like it! My husband doesn't (claims) to like onions but this goes pretty unnoticed.

            1. Simply, I use a pure of onions, celery, green pepper and a large clove of garlic in the food processor. I add this after I have seared the meat in a Dutch oven on top of the stove. S&P, 1/2 cup of red wine and a 1/2 cup of black coffee, two bay leaves, and some Rosemary. Depending on the thickness of the meat determines how long it gets cooked in the oven. I use the tender fork method, let it cool, very important, then slice it.
              As a result of deglazing the pot and making a puree of the vegetable base, I don't find it necessary to strain the liquid afterwards for serving, except for the Bay leaves.

              One important item, with the cover on the Dutch oven, the meat is braised and you will have plenty of gravy for the meat.

              This works for most cuts of "pot roast".

              1. If you're just looking for a different base, how about the porcini mushroom bullion cubes that are sold in the big chain spice shops and better Italian grocery stores. (They're made in Italy)

                There are so many prepared broths out there that there's bound to be at least one you'll like - and quite frankly, many that you won't.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: BigBrother

                    +1 to Porcini! Also, consider using a teaspoon or two of fish sauce, or anchovies in any form (paste, tinned, etc.).

                  2. re: BrianYarvin

                    Mushroom bouillon means unnecessary salt. Grind dried shrooms in a processor or dedicated coffee/spice grinder and you've got all the umami without losing control of the salt in your roast.

                    ATK did their own substitute for onion soup mix. I remember that it included garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce, and tomato paste. Perhaps dried mushroom, instant coffee, and paprika too. But this type of thing isn't written in stone. Personally, I use the Lipton PLUS mushrooms and tomato paste, and plenty of onion and garlic as part of the vegetables. Also red wine.

                    Don't be tempted to use Trader Joe's dry onion soup mix. It has nothing meaty-tasting. If memory serves, it's little more than powdered garlic, powdered onion, and salt.

                  3. Try the other old stand by beef broth- Campbells double strength.

                    1. Well, if you want the *best*, there's no substitute for making your own stock, and it's not that difficult to do. Stock can be made well ahead of time, too, jarred and fridged, and it will last almost indefinitely (I've used stock jars over 2 years old without ill effects)

                      To make a stock, get some good but cheap cuts of beef with plenty of bone; shank is a classic choice. Also include some bits with lots of cartilage to create gelatine; oxtails are ideal. Now get a large sweet onion or 2, a big thick carrot, and 2 stalks of celery. Cut the onion into coarse pieces, and the carrot and celery into big chunks. Get a very heavy pot with a thick bottom and put a bit of beef fat in it - the best is any you've saved from a roast (which could be either a dry-roast or a pot roast, but the dry-roast fat is a little more flavourful). Put it on at a high setting and wait until the fat is smoking, then add your meat, stirring to brown really ferociously, without letting it burn. Now add your onions and brown those too. Add carrots, same thing, get those browned. At this point put in the celery, a bay leaf, and some coarse-ground pepper (judge to taste; you don't want to overdo the pepper), add enough water to just cover, turn the heat down very low, and simmer for at least 12 hours - up to 24. You can safely walk away while the thing is simmering, once you've adjusted the temperature, and no disasters will occur, but do make sure you know what setting for your cooker will truly simmer or you'll either get something at a rolling boil that will evaporate too fast, or something below a simmer which won't develop much flavour.

                      At the end of this time, strain the whole through a sieve. Chill the produced stock and remove the fat (you'll be able to pull it off in a solid disc, and if you've done well your stock should be firm and gelatinous.) Reheat in order to pour into jars, then pour into your jars, storing in the fridge.

                      There's a short learning curve the first time in setting the temperature to simmer, and on how much meat you need, but you'll quickly get the basics down and it becomes a simple thing you can do and always have stock on hand for pot roasts, stews, soups, gravies, etc.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: AlexRast

                        Thank you.

                        Someone needed to put this here.

                        1. re: AlexRast

                          Stock cannot be kept in the refrigerator for more than three or so days. It can, however, be chilled and then frozen.

                          1. re: nosh

                            I have to disagree here. I have kept *numerous* stocks in my fridge, sometimes for years, frequently for months, and they've remained good essentially indefinitely. I do make sure they're in jars that seal; this no doubt increases the shelf life dramatically. But finding sealing jars to put them in is trifling; I reuse jars that I bought containing other things (jams, nut butters, tomato puree, etc. etc. etc.)

                            1. re: AlexRast

                              Respectfully, you've been lucky. And if you have stock in sealed jars in the fridge, why not just put them in the freezer? Much safer.

                              Stock is an ideal breeding venue for bacteria.

                              1. re: nosh

                                Several reasons for not freezing.

                                First and by far the most important is that freezing breaks down the gelatine, leading to a poorer, thinner texture. (It also makes it useless in some applications, e.g. pork pie). This is the fundamental reason why I don't freeze.

                                There are also a pair of practical reasons.

                                Second, if you were to put jars in the freezer they'd crack when the water expanded, and I wouldn't want to use bags because in the first place the plastic will impart some taste (admittedly very minor), in the second place the seal is not always entirely reliable, in the third place it's awkward to use because you can't pour it easily out of the bag, and using in frozen form makes it difficult to measure with precision, or to use only a partial amount.

                                Third, freezer space is a lot more limited than fridge space, so there would be little room in any case, no matter what the storage vessel.

                                However, as for the safety question, particularly given my own experience, I'd need to see specific data that demonstrate that (as long as the stock is put in the jars at boiling and the jars vacuum-seal) with a bit of common sense on smelling bad or looking obviously spoilt, the cumulative risk of dying was considerably greater than, say, the cumulative risk of dying in a car smash.

                                Governments, and corporations, of necessity *must* issue recommendations that are extremely cautious verging on paranoid, because they are addressing a much larger statistic (millions of people) and if even one person dies it could be a public-relations disaster if not a major lawsuit but I really think that for the typical consumer to demand six-sigma safety margins verges on the irrational. You always have to remember that statistics works very differently for bodies dealing with large numbers than it does for individuals. What for the individual is effectively impossible may be for the organisation effectively inevitable. There might be reason for caution if a person can identify themselves as belonging to a specific high-risk group, but otherwise it falls into the same category, I think, as a lot of other things for which you, the individual, can't accurately estimate the real risk (such as, e.g. changing a light bulb), and therefore can in practical terms only rationally go by your own experience.

                                1. re: AlexRast

                                  Just one point - I freeze my stocks in glass canning jars and have done so for many years. Care just needs to be taken to keep the level one inch lower than the "shoulders", or point of indentation, of the jars. I buy plastic lids for canning jars for this purpose.

                        2. Campbell's condensed French Onion Soup

                          Or ...

                          Leftover packets of instant ramen seasoning. It's powdered skill on steroid.s

                          1. OK, so for centuries cooks have been building rich flavors without convenience products.

                            First, sauté some onions, carrots, mushrooms (optional), fresh chopped garlic (also optional), and celery in your fat of choice - cook until just softened. You can salt them a bit while they are sautéing. Bacon fat is nice, or olive oil, or butter. Remove from the pan.

                            Throw in your salted roast. Make sure it's a flavorful cut, like beef short ribs or chuck. Brown it up on both sides and remove it.

                            Squirt and little tube tomato paste into the pan - about a tablespoon. Throw in some alcohol - dry red wine or sherry. Stir up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

                            Add some dry or fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and just a tiny bit of tarragon and teensy bit of cloves. Freshly ground pepper, too.

                            Put the veg and beef back in. Add just a cup or two of homemade beef stock or water. You do NOT want to entirely submerge the meat in the liquid.

                            Braise, covered, in the oven until tender, depending on cut and size.

                            When tender (not falling apart - if it's falling apart the flavor has been cooked out of it), remove the meat to a platter, tent it with foil, and keep it warm.

                            Strain the solids out of the liquid, discarding them. Reduce the liquids on the stovetop and serve as sauce. OR, puree the solids with the liquids for a thicker, more flavorful sauce.

                            If you want a thicker, American-style gravy, make a roux and use it to thicken the juices.

                            Taste your finished sauce of choice and salt it if needed.

                            Hope I haven't forgotten anything - I'm sure others will point it out if I have - ha!

                            3 Replies
                                1. re: On_yun

                                  Thanks - it was a bit seat-of-the-pants - !

                              1. I use Lipton Recipe Secrets Beefy Onion.That soup mix

                                makes some screaming gravy.I use it for my Roast.

                                1. My opinion only here but I think that whatever you add subsequently, you cannot have a hearty & flavorful pot roast without properly searing & browning the meat. My method which I learned from my mom is to heat a CI Dutch Oven to med-high, add a liberal amount of salt (more than a tsp, less than a tblsp) and brown the meat on all sides.

                                  From there on, opinions, flavors, ingredients & palates all vary.


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                    I am going to have to get back into the swing of

                                    things and fix a pot Roast with all the trimmings.

                                    I Just cook a seven bone chuck roast right on top

                                    of the stove and pour over the Recipe Secrets Beefy Onion

                                    gravy.I cut up some potatoes in the skillet.

                                    1. re: Smiley881

                                      What is "Recipe Secrets Beefy Onion"?

                                      I try not to go overboard on beef flavored stuff for beef, chicken flavored stuff for chicken, or pork flavored stuff for pork.

                                      If you notice people are getting used to grabbing the meat flavor from an ingredient like broth, bases, or demiglace. I use them sometimes but it's getting kinda crazy with recipes calling for chicken broth in everything. Sometimes it's better to just step back and enhance the flavor that it already has by browning the meat and using things that compliment that. Does that make any sense?

                                      Garlic would be another thing that people throw in maybe a little too much. I like garlic, and sometimes I use enough to call it a vegetable for some things. I don't like to rely on it to boost flavor in something that should be able to stand on it's own though, things that might not need it. Sometimes it can get in the way of enjoying the flavor that is already there.

                                      I like a good pot roast without much help beyond vegetables, salt and pepper. Occasionally though I'll go nuts and anything goes..

                                      1. re: On_yun

                                        Recipe Secrets Beefy Onion is a Lipton powdered soup/flavor base.

                                    2. re: JoeBabbitt

                                      I agree, I even stand it on edge and get the sides if it's flat.