Company Pot Roast

Company Pot Roast  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Comfort and Company”

The Set-up: Ina is re-testing some classic recipes and updating them for company.

The Menu: Company Pot Roast, Baked Potatoes with Yogurt and Sour Cream

0:27 – First step of Company Pot Roast: haul out the biggest pot in the house! That is seriously a giant Le Creuset French oven.

1:11 – Pro Tip #1: Pat the roast dry with paper towels to help it sear in the pot.

2:34 – I love a two-fer - Pro Tip #2: After seasoning, dredge the roast in flour – the light coating browns the meat and thickens the sauce.

3:25 – Ina lets one of her secrets for making this company-ready: she’s stealing some inspiration from Beef Bourgignon. Which if you think about it is basically the same dish, just fancied up.

4:16 – Ina keeps a notebook near by when she’s testing recipes to keep track of what she’s doing, a practice I whole-heartedly endorse. If I can’t remember what I did, how can I recreate it?

5:48 – Need a suggestion for the Company Pot Roast extra sauce? Ina uses it to make pasta Bolognese.

6:02 – This is a classic stew/soup/braise combo: onion, carrot, celery, garlic, leeks. Yum!

7:16 – The plot thickens! Ina is going to be home alone and doesn’t need an entire pot roast, so she’s calling her friend Dwyer (who’s in the depths of a kitchen remodel) to see if she’d like dinner. Naturally the answer is “yes.”

10:47 – Apparently if you want to terrify Ina just invite her to a really stiff, formal dinner with starched napkins and hard chairs. Actually that does sound unappealing…

11:22 – Now for the bouquet garni of rosemary and thyme fresh from the garden and tied with kitchen twine.

12:28 – In goes the Burgundy - she really is drawing on beef Bourgignon - cognac, tomatoes, and chicken stock. And (!) something really old-fashioned: a bouillon cube!

13:10 – Dwyer the lucky duck is now jetting around town buying flowers for Ina as a thank you. So sweet!

14:28 – Pot roast is in the oven to bubble away for a few hours. I love hands-off cooking!

18:39 – On to the Baked Potatoes with Yogurt and Sour Cream and Ina is using baking potatoes – specifically russets.

19:02 – Pro Tip #3: Potatoes bake better if the skins are dry before they go in the oven. I never knew that!

20:35 – These are some seriously no-fuss potatoes – no foil, no olive oil, not even pierced with a fork! – just placed right on the oven rack at 350 degrees.

21:41 – Dwyer continues to plan a thank you for Ina by picking up Chinese take-out for dinner. If you’re curious, she orders General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli and white rice – I assume this is Ina’s usual?

22:53 – Pro Tip for the Ages: “You can make something really simple, but if it’s beautifully presented it makes all the difference in the world.” I’m trying to incorporate that into so many areas of life!

26:16 – Why choose chunky or pureed sauce for Company Pot Roast when you can have both?

27:03 – Pro Tip #4: Mashing the flour into softened butter prevents lumpy sauce. This is one of my all time favorite tricks.

28:20 – I like how Ina upped the fanciness with the ingredients and the presentation by pre-slicing the roast. So much easier to serve!

29:38 – Dwyer arrives to pick up dinner and deliver her surprises to Ina, who seems genuinely delighted by them.

29:59 – Fast forward to dinner time and Dwyer sends Ina a photo of everyone enjoying their delicious meal. Yay!

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Final Thoughts:
It’s amazing how the addition of an ingredient or one small change can transform one dish into something else entirely (ex. Beef Bourgignon vs. Company Pot Roast)

Still reflecting on the Pro Tip for the Ages. Should I stitch a throw pillow so I don’t forget?

Wondering, with all the cooking Ina does, how many people in the Hamptons get a catered dinner each week compliments of the Barefoot Contessa Test Kitchen?

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made similar dishes in the past, but I decided to make Company Pot Roast any way to learn more about Ina’s techniques for developing flavor and to see if it really was special enough for company.

Alliums – as I’ve been cooking more I’ve realized that using multiple members of this family - aka onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, etc. – can build layers and depth in a dish. The complexity of flavors increases so much just by using adding shallot or leeks to the standard onions. Try it sometime and see if you taste a difference too.

Sauce – similar to the layering of alliums, Ina’s recipes (and now my own) often incorporate wine and in this case, cognac too. I’m continually amazed by the richness a cup of red wine adds to a tomato sauce and the combination with roast beef is classic.

Presentation – the recipe suggests allowing the roast to rest before slicing and serving with the sauce. Such a small adjustment, but such a big difference! It saves the host(ess) from wrangling a giant piece of meat at the table and definitely takes this dish to “company” level.

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Surprisingly, yes - Company Pot Roast is essentially a one-pot meal! I used a large cutting board, my trusty 5 quart Le Creuset, and a blender. I also used a chef’s knife, measuring cups & spoons, tongs, a wooden spatula, a large spoon, and a large pronged fork. Kitchen twine will be helpful too.

The Verdict:
Who could doubt that the Barefoot Contessa has a kick-ass (pardon my French) and company appropriate recipe for pot roast? The flavor of the sauce is amazing - definitely serve this along side something to soak up the extra, like mashed potatoes or polenta - deeply tomato-y and rich with the wine and herbs. I’d also recommend saving any that remains after dinner to serve over pasta or with baked eggs (more on that idea next week!)

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith