Simple pot roast for a comfort-needy Monday


Many thanks for all the birthday wishes last Friday, via comment or otherwise — it was, to say the least, an exciting day. This was foreshadowed by a comment from my big sister (by a mere 15 months) on that post:

Sorry to be a big bucket of cold water… but please be careful of the weather today. You are headed to an area that has an almost 100% chance of tornadoes.

And, I mean, I knew this. I have access to, knew that schools in the Southern part of the state were letting students out early. But it was my FORTIETH BIRTHDAY. We had reservations at a great restaurant, had pricelined a something-star non-refundable hotel room for the night. My in-laws had come to town to keep our kids, my BIL & SIL were driving from Lexington to meet us. The plans had been in place for weeks. In short, we would be driving to Louisville that day. Weather be damned.

But then a few hours later, we found ourselves waiting out a second tornado warning in a rest stop off 65-south, just three miles north of Henryville, IN — where the most intense damage occurred. Late Friday night, looking at a map of the tornadoes that touched down that day, the biggest cluster was exactly where we were Friday afternoon. We literally drove into tornadoes.

This fact flies in the face of each of my family members. Of the females in my family, I am the only one without a tornado phobia (we can discuss the phobias I *do* have at a later date). All three of them, I’m sure, considered us certifiably insane.

So the next morning, at breakfast, my big sister sent an email to my whole weather-phobic family. It included a tongue-in-cheek list of upcoming vacation ideas for me and Tim:

  • Sightseeing in the Gaza Strip
  • Deep sea fishing off the shores of Somalia
  • A “Hugs, Not Drugs” mission trip to Northern Mexico
  • Camping trip to the Fukashima nuclear site in Japan
  • Cageless-shark diving just offshore from South Africa, in chummed waters (because chum actually makes great white sharks sleepy)
  • Time travel back to June, 1944, for an lovely picnic for two on the seashore in Normandy, France

She’s a funny one, my big sister.

Once we got there, it was the perfect celebration; but even late-starting birthday trips must end. When ours did, we returned home to a sick child (confession: he was sick when we left — do you now get how badly I wanted to go to Louisville?). Between nurse-playing for the past 48 hours and getting caught up on laundry, I wanted to start this week with something easy and comforting for dinner: enter the slow-cooker pot roast.


(the chuck roast after being seared, before hitting the slow-cooker)

I love this recipe because it’s simple, cheap, and makes its own gravy (a stick blender helps in making this a sort-of one-pot meal). The long-braising makes what can be a tough cut of meat fall-off-the-bone tender. All you need is mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, and you’ve got the perfect comfort dinner.

Just what a girl needs after a birthday-bashing, sick-kid-nursing, tornado-chasing weekend.


I use a small (2#) bone-in chuck roast, because that’s what came with our beef quarter. The bones give the dish more flavor, and since the meat falls off anyway, there’s no reason to get a boneless chuck (though that should work if it’s what you have). If you have a larger roast, you can use the same amount of vegetables, but might need more stock or water for adequate braising.

Recipe: Simple Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

: serving sizes vary; a 2-pound bone-in roast will serve 2-3 adults


  • 2-5 pound bone-in chuck roast, preferably grassfed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp rendered fat or olive oil
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a string
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or more cups stock or water


  1. Season the beef roast on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the fat until just starting to smoke. Sear the roast on both sides until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Place in slow-cooker, and lay thyme sprigs on top.
  3. In now-empty skillet, saute the onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant.
  4. Pour 1 cup stock (or water, though not as flavorful) into the saute pan, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour vegetables and liquid over the roast in the slow-cooker.
  5. Add more broth or water, if necessary, so that the liquid level comes halfway up the sides of the roast.
  6. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 6-8 hours, this is a dish that can go longer since it falls apart anyway).
  7. Remove roast and bones from crockpot. Using a stick blender, puree the liquid in the pot to use for gravy (use a food processor if you don’t have a stick blender).
  8. Serve with gravy and mashed potatoes or winter squash.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.



11 thoughts on “Simple pot roast for a comfort-needy Monday

  1. So your younger, less funny and more hysterical sister has a question: If you had known then what you know now, would you have still made the trip at that time of day or would you have waited a little later to let the weather clear out? (And yes, your reasoning for “having to go anyway” despite ALL INDICATIONS IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST IRRATIONAL DECISIONS YOU’VE EVER MADE continues to boggle my mind… but mainly every time I see or hear the stories that came out of Henryville –– like the woman on the front of Yahoo today who lost both of her legs shielding her children as their house blew apart around them –– I am thankful to God that your fortieth birthday wasn’t your last birthday.)

    On a happy note, roast looks yummy. Think we’ll try it tomorrow night. =)

    1. No, I would not make the same decision — but again, hindsight is 20/20. All I can say to that is: not having many opportunities to do something kid-free can make you a bit irrational…

      What happened to Henryville is horrendous — honestly I think it would have been much worse a few years ago, before so many people had smartphones — also I can’t imagine what would have happened had they not let school out early.

  2. Maybe your sister and I should be related. I grew up in tornado alley, in my case a suburb of St. Louis. They scared the hell out of me and I can still recall my spot in the basement that I kept decked out for me and my Barbie dolls. No longer needed the dolls but I still have the spot ready to flee to at a moments notice all these many years later!

    Glad it was uneventful and you got your trip in. Now I need to go call my daughter and make sure she made it to work safely. (OK, I’m kidding)

    1. Barbara — that’s what’s weird about our phobias or lack thereof: we all grew up in the same house in Tornado Alley, Mississippi — we new the drill, getting under the mattress in the middle hallway during warnings. But I just didn’t get the phobia — though I do have way more respect for the storms than my Pennsylvania-raised husband, who never had them (ironically, it was HE who steered us off the interstate 3 miles north of Henryville, in an inexplicable and extremely rare show of caution).

      Do you ever have tornadoes in Colorado?

  3. I knew you guys were in the general vicinity, but I didn’t know you were THAT close. Kudos to Tim for trusting his gut. I get it, though. Kids mess with our reasoning and there are days I would probably tip-toe through a viper’s nest if it meant I might get to sleep an extra hour or two the next day. The menu at Harvest looks amazing … might just have to plan a kid-free getaway to Louisville ourselves.

  4. First, I was on my way home from Texas during all of that weather- in an airplane -watching CNN LIVE as their storm chasers were following the tornadoes across I-64 and I remember when it went through Henryville. The chaser was saying it was one of the biggest ones he’d ever seen. I’m so glad you all made it safely and I totally get the crazed need to leave everything behind, sick child and all, and venture out into the tornado riddled region for you birthday. Makes total sense to me. I’m not sure, however, that live tv is always a great idea when you are 30,000 feet above the ground. Can you fly over a tornado? Do you have to go around it? I’m going to go with around because, we were stuck at the ATL for hours waiting for them to plot a course to Lexington that would avoid all the red spots on the weather map. Do you know how many red spots there were? Me either, because I can’t count that high. The map looked like it had the chicken pox.
    #2 Where did you stay in the Ville? Was it the museum hotel with all the fancy works of art that was ranked one of the nicest hotels in the US (something like c21 or 21c)? Nate has been wanting to go there.
    #3 I had a sea bass in San Antonio that was so delicious it brought a tear to my eye.
    #3.5 I had a jumbo shrimp quesadilla that was so horrible not even Nate would eat it. He will eat anything. I beg him to not eat some of the things he uncovers in the fridge. And he would not eat this wretched thing with clearly bad cheese. He told me that is what I get for ordering it only because I thought it was something he had wanted. Remember, no good deed goes unpunished.
    #4 I have a horrible phobia of air turbulence. Go back and read #1. FUN TIMES!
    #5 Girl…I have been thinking all week, “I am fixing a pot roast on Thursday!” You are reading my mind?!
    #6 There really is no basement in the Alamo.
    And #7 – maybe I should just write my own blog that is basically just commenting on your blog. Kind of like MST 3000. But not as mocking. I seem to have a lot to say to you in this comment box. But, well, YOU asked for it! 🙂
    Again, I’m glad you are safe and had a very happy birthday. I can only imagine the food and festivities were that much better having just survived a near death experience.

  5. Katy, I’m not going to post about your phobia — but you know I am thinking about it.

    And lest anyone think otherwise, my phobia (shared by our mother and youngest sister) is the SUPERIOR phobia because tornadoes can actually kill you.

    Can’t wait to see a picture of 6 y.o.’s cake!

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