Weekly Winner: Taking Pot Roast Up a Notch

We have had a beautiful summer here in Chicago, but as always, I’m ready for fall. No matter what, the first breeze of slightly cooler air and I’m craving heartier food — big vats of stewed, braised, lovingly tended hunks of meat with tasty, savory sides. So for this Sunday’s supper — it was time to elevate the pot roast.

IMG_0568.JPGI got this recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, and while the recipe (as they usually are) was flawless, there was one thing that troubled me.  What to do with the pancetta once you rendered the fat from it to sear the beef in?  I even had my husband read through the recipe.  “They don’t mean for me to NOT use the pancetta, do they?”  “That’s crazy”!  I solved the problem by adding it to the roasted Brussels Sprouts we had with it.  Et Voila, crisis averted.

Pancetta conundrum aside, this recipe solves the problem of the typically “one note” pot roast recipe.  I find that more times than not, most pot roast tastes like, well…. meat.  And only meat.  Not that that’s all bad, but it can get a tad boring.  This roast has great depth from the dried porcini and red wine, and a nice zippy zing from the balsamic — a LOT of balsamic.  Here’s the recipe and as good as it was on Sunday night — Monday’s version was even better — pot roast tacos! (No seriously, they were incredible!)

Balsamic Braised Beef

Serves 6


4 oz pancetta, diced

1 bone-in beef chuck roast (5 lbs) trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

5 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbsp. mustard seeds

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1-1/2 cups balsamic vinegar

2 dried bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1 tsp unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp all-purpose flour


Cook pancetta in a large saute pan over medium-low heat until crisp, 20 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and reserve drippings.

Sear roast in drippings in sam pan over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, 15 minutes; transfer to a 7 to 8-quart slow cooker.

Saute onions, carrots, celery, garlic and mustard seeds in same pan until liquid starts to release, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook mixture until wine nearly evaporates, 2 minutes, transfer to slow cooker.

Add vinegar, bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary, honey, and mushrooms to slow cooker.  Cover slow cooker and cook roast until fork-tender on high setting, about 5 hours.

Transfer roast to a cutting board and break into pieces using two forks; discard any excess fat.  Strain braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids.  skim any fat from surface of liquid and discard. Transfer liquid to a saucepan with remaining rosemary sprig over medium heat.  Bring liquid to a simmer and reduce to 1-1/4 cups; discard rosemary.

Combine butter and flour, then whisk into reduced liquid.  Simmer sauce until thickened, 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

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