Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Pot Roast - Comfort Food for the Family


When we talk about comfort food in my family, pot roast is always at the top of the list.  We talk about the way my mother made it, but we talk about the way we’ve made it for decades.

If my mother were living, she would be 99 years old.  Her pot roast was unmatched during my childhood.  Long before the days of crockpots, Mother slow cooked her beef chuck roast for a long time and ended with the most tender and flavorful meal.  Chuck roast was the key and probably the cut of roast that we could best afford,  We did raise a cow one time and put beef in the freezer, but that was not common.  The corner grocery store was where our meat came from.

In a big cast iron deep skillet with a good lid, Mother would brown her roast on all sides.  Salt, pepper, chopped onion and a couple cups of water is all she added to begin the very slow simmer.  The heavy lid was a must.   Potatoes and carrots were added later and by suppertime (dinner) or Sunday dinnertime (lunch) we had the wonderful meal.

My husband’s favorite pot roast recipe couldn’t have been easier.  The meat was browned then placed in a heavy casserole with a lid. We covered the roast with onion soup mix, added a couple cups of water and let it bake at 325 degrees for 3 or 4 hours.   Perfect at the end.

Joe and I made pot roast using the onion soup mix for decades.  I’m tired of that flavor and because I end up with too much meat left over and converted to other meals, I’m really tired of that flavor.  I’m also tired of having too much pot roast left over, so I had the butcher cut a nice 4 pound roast into 3 pieces for me.  I’ll cook one at a time.

I love leeks and found some really pretty ones at the fresh foods market.  I’m also loving two seasoning rubs from Pampered Chef … Dijon Mustard and Three Onion.  My choice for bullion these days is “Better than Bouillon” and the sauteed onion flavor is so good.

Add mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables to this meal and you have something that takes you back to your childhood … or something that creates new memories for grandchildren.

The recipe is simple.  Let me say first, If you are cooking  a 1 – 2 pound roast, high in the crockpot for 2 -3 hours does the trick.  You can cook it on low for double the time and if the roast is closer to 4 pounds, you’ll need to cook it on low for 8 hours.   Perfect to set it up before you leave for work.

I placed half a leek, green and white parts, in the crock pot and poured 2 cups of water over it.  I smeared the top side of the meat with a Tablespoon of the Better than Bouillon.  I sprinkled a heaping teaspoon of each of the Pampered Chef seasonings over the meat.   After the meat was done and fork tender, I turned the piece of meat upside down and pushed it around in the liquid.  That way, some of the flavoring that had caramelized on top of the meat was blended into the water for flavor.  I made a slurry of 1 Tablespoon of corn starch with 1 cup of cold water and poured it into the crock pot … made sure it was set on high … whisked the gravy/liquid around … put the lid back on and in 30 minutes I had a nice gravy.

Hunter's Chicken

During the time that we owned an Italian Restaurant, I made lots of Chicken Cacciatore. My husband liked to call it Hunter’s Chicken to give it a more ‘rural comfort food’ appeal. The menu said one thing, but Joe called it something else! 

Food historians believe that this dish originated in about 1500 in Italy. The lore suggests that hunters returned from the woods with their fowl and along the way, they gathered wild mushrooms and herbs to flavor the pot. 

Long after our restaurant days, I continued to make Hunter’s Chicken for our family and friends. I still love to tell the story of Joe’s interpretation. 

We can attribute this deliciousness to Italy, but truth be told, several cultures have similar dishes. In France it is called Chicken Chasseur, chasseur meaning hunter. In Spain there is another version of the crispy browned chicken smothered in a reduced sauce. 

I’m sharing my version of preparation, but I encourage you to google recipes until you find one that appeals to you. Don’t go buy special ingredients. Use what you have and don’t hesitate to make substitutions. If you don’t have black olives, use green! You don’t have to use chicken. This time, I used a little game hen, because I was cooking for one! If you don’t have olive oil, use canola oil. Make this recipe your own. That is what comfort food is all about. 

Hunter’s Chicken for Joe 

Primary ingredients: 

1 game hen 
Roasted red peppers from a jar, in oil 
Olive oil – garlic infused 
Green olives 
A handful of fresh Mushrooms
1 cup of chopped tomatoes 
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce 
Italian herbs and spices 

 This is prepared in one pot. Split the game hen. Season with a little salt and pepper and dried Italian herbs. Brown the meat on both sides in a 2 Tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil. After the skin is browned, remove the meat from the pot and add 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped onion. When the onion starts to soften, add the mushrooms and return the hen to the pot. At this point, add fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary), 1/2 cup of green olives, several slices of roasted red pepper with a little oil from the jar and the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot to allow the little hen to simmer. Add a cup of hot water if you need it. 

In the last 10 minutes of cooking, you can add a cup of uncooked pasta. You can also skip cooking the pasta with the other ingredients and serve Hunter’s Chicken over rice, fried potatoes or cooked pasta. Make sure you have crusty bread hot from the oven. You won’t want to let even of drop of the broth go to waste!

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