Because of El Nino

Once February rolls into March, I typically start thinking beyond hearty comfort foods and dishes that deserve long hours in the oven. By this time of year, we have moved on to lighter fare. We usually start grilling again in earnest, and eating meals outdoors.…

Because of El Nino


Once February rolls into March, I typically start thinking beyond hearty comfort foods and dishes that deserve long hours in the oven. By this time of year, we have moved on to lighter fare. We usually start grilling again in earnest, and eating meals outdoors.

But here we are, closing in on the end of April, and because of El Nino, we here in Northern California have been “enjoying” an extended winter season. For us, that means rain, so we can’t complain too much. And if you love to ski, then it’s even better, because scattered between these rainy spells are bluebird ski days up in Tahoe.

We’ve been rather busy, so there haven’t been any spring trips to Tahoe, but it’s also meant that we have been yearning for food that sticks to your bones. Braising meats in the oven means those kinds of meals, plus extra warmth to ward off the chill in the damp air. So, here it was, last weekend, and I found myself making a Pot Roast.

A pot roast is not necessarily glamorous, but I like to think it can be. Why not dress it up by cooking it with adorably chic pearl onions and a good lug or two (or three) of an elegant Merlot?

Pot RoastI will admit that pearl onions are a pain to peel, but thankfully I have a little sous chef in the kitchen who was eager for some busy work after being cooped up indoors. My daughter set upon those pearl onions and peeled away like a trooper, despite the tears it yielded.

As for the wine, I used a luscious 2006 Partner’s Reserve Merlot from Soquel Vineyards in Santa Cruz. [Lately we’ve definitely had a thing for Santa Cruz wines, if you can tell.] It was perfect in giving the braising sauce a heady essence. It also tastes pretty darn good out of a glass. This 2010 Silver Medal Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is succulent and rich, just right to savor along with this graceful pot roast.

Pot-Roast-PlateBy the time I post this, we’ll be (fingers crossed) having a typical warm spring weekend. But, the rains are due to return, so if the weather turns cool wherever you live, keep this Pot Roast in mind. It’s just right for those long, cold, rainy weekends.

Elegant Pot Roast

  • 3.5 lb roast (chuck or rump)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup good red wine, such as a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 12 oz pearl onions, peeled
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 red potatoes, quartered

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure roast is dry by blotting it with a paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, making sure the roast is evenly coated.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Brown the roast on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside. On medium heat, add carrots, celery, bell pepper and garlic and saute about 3-5 minutes. Add wine and allow to cook down, scraping bits at the bottom of the pot.

Return meat to the pot, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, then transfer to the oven. Allow to roast in the oven for 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Rotate meat periodically. About 20 minutes prior to removing the roast, add the potatoes and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Remove bay leaf before serving.


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  1. merry jennifer

    Your roast looks so rich and tasty. I like the addition of the merlot. I normally cook with cabernet as my red wine of choice, but I’m not sure why. Merlot would work amazingly well, as I’m sure it did in your pot roast. Hope you all get some nice warm, dry, sunny spring weather soon!

    • Liren

      I know! I usually veer towards the cab when I cook, but sometimes a bold merlot really works so nicely (like here!). My other favorite red wine to cook with is a shiraz or syrah. Thanks for your warm weather wishes – today was gorgeous, and tomorrow should be too. Then it’s back to cold/rainy :(

  2. Stella

    Good Morning Liren, this pot roast is elegant and even looks wholesome or at least your photos certainly make it look as such. Oh, and it is a rainy day here in the subtropical hollow. Hmm?
    By the way, I wish I had a little sous chef (very lucky you are!)

    • Liren

      Hi Stella! Oh, is it really raining there? I did see storm reports in your neck of the woods…this pot roast is definitely perfect for those indoorsy days. And hey, if you lived closer, I’m sure my little sous chef would love to help you out…especially when you bake those yummy goodies!

  3. Divina

    This is a beautiful dish. Slow cooking and comfort food for the perfect weather and some great pearl onions, potatoes and mushrooms to go with it is nothing but pure bliss. And some red wine for the depth of flavor. This is a great Liren.

    • Liren

      Hi Divina, thank you! Yes, it really is such a rich and comforting dish. I loved biting into the pearl onions, so squishy and flavorful!

  4. Ana

    The longer lingering winter has made for a longer roasting season for sure. This recipe looks yummy!

    • Liren

      Yes, it has been a longer roasting season!!! I have to confess, though, I’m so looking forward to warmer weather and cooking lighter things!

  5. Tracey@Tangled Noodle

    I fuss about cold and wet weather, but love that it gives me the best excuse to enjoy comforting soups and delicious dishes such as your pot roast! Pretty frosting on cakes and clever vegetable garnishes made to look like flowers can’t beat the deep, rich color of a perfect roast for visual elegance. As for the flavor, I don’t need to guess that it tastes just as wonderful as it looks! 8-)

    • Liren

      I totally agree. I can’t help but complain about the cold and the rain, but it is definitely nice to cozy up at home and cook all these comforting foods. Sometimes it seems that the oven is on all day!

  6. Jenn

    Salut Liren!
    I think anything made in the kitchen can be dressed up and I love the fancyness that you added to your pot roast. Funny enough, a week ago I bought some meat to make pot roast specifcally. Another gem to add to the increasingly long list of things to try.

    Also, very lucky to have a sous chef. I wish my husband would be up to the task but he’s at work once I start cooking. Maybe I should hire a cabana boy… *ponders….*

    • Liren

      Hi Jenn! So you’ve got a cut of meat for a pot roast? Perfect! It’s true, pretty much any food can be dressed up — and in this case, pearls helped to deck out this roast :) When in doubt, go to pearls!

      LOL, cabana boy…you’re too funny!

    • Jenn

      Well… the cabana boy would serve as both eye candy and kitchen slave even though I do not have a cabana… lol…

      But down to business: Thank you for your support, lovely words and especially friendship in this foodie cybertown. I love how your writing is like a conversation and your blog makes me smile :)
      Two awards for one person I highly admire: Of course, no pressure to accept :)

    • Liren

      Jenn, you’re a hoot, thank you for bringing smiles to my day. I like the way you think…you may have to come up with another name for cabana, you know, just so you can sneak this one past your honey. LOL.

      ANYWAY, thank you soooo much for the awards. TWO? Too much! Thank you for your kind words and please know that the feeling is mutual. You make this blogging adventure more fun!


    I lovelovelove a good pot roast and this one looks superb! Rain has finally arrived in our area and this coming week looks to be a wet one – guess who’s going to put a roast in oven tomorrow??? Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Liren

      A roast will be perfect for a long rainy Sunday! And while I am tired of the rain, I love what it does for the garden. Your gorgeous garden will benefit from all this wet weather!

  8. skip to malou

    elegant indeed. pot roast is like a hug… it comforts you, and warms the heart… esp on a rainy/stormy day.
    thanks for sharing… as i’ve been cooking my potroast in a stove top and not in the oven.. but roasting it in the oven for 3-4 hours? mmmm i’d imagine the aroma that this dish brings in to the whole house… love it!

    • Liren

      Hi Malou – pot roast can of course be done on the stove, but I don’t know…I prefer it in the oven. I’m not sure if this is the case, but I tend to think that the temperature from braising in the oven is better? It probably doesn’t make a single bit of difference, but psychologically, I like keeping pot roasts in the oven. It does exude a nice aroma :)

    • Liren

      Donna, thanks! I know, just when I think I’m done with the dutch oven, I find myself digging it out again! I do love my dutch oven…plus I get the added bonus of exercising my biceps from lifting it in and out of the oven :)

  9. Jun Belen

    Elegant indeed – wonderful post and lovely photos!! Pot roasts are always comforting!!! I just hope there are no more stormy weekends for a while.

    • Liren

      Hi, Jun, so glad you stopped by! Thank you for your kind words about my photos – that means a lot coming from you! I also hope there aren’t any more stormy weekends ahead, the weather today was just gorgeous, but I’m afraid it’s back to rain coats and umbrellas again soon.

    • Liren

      Thank you Sook! The mushrooms and the pearl onions in particular were just so pretty, I got a little snap happy!

  10. MaryMoh

    That’s such a delicious looking roast. I always love roast with wine added….the more the better :P It gives such beautiful flavour.

    • Liren

      Hi Mary! Thank you – I totally agree – the more wine, the better! It really gives the braising liquid such a rich flavor!

  11. denise @ quickies on the dinner table

    Trust you, Liren, to make what most of us would think of as “stodgy” suddenly seem glamourous and even…sprightly! Love the pearl onions and the kiss of merlot. Wonderful presentation – as if you could ever do otherwise!

    • Liren

      Hi Denise! Thank you… Yes, even ugly ducklings can become swans…and this applies in the kitchen, too :) I loved the pearl onions – I often overlook these little gems, but they’re such fun! I think I want to try them on the grill next!

  12. Cristina

    I think a pot roast is glamorous…you’ve made it so! Wow, that looks absolutely gorgeous and delicious. I like the use of bell pepper and a bay leaf. Perfect pairing with a red.

    • Liren

      Thank you so, so much, Cristina! I do believe that most dishes, with some extra TLC can become glamorous, don’t you? The bay leaf is definitely a must :)

  13. Gary "Iron" Chevsky

    Looks delicious. On the wine pairing side, I would encourage you to be adventurous and try other bold wines from around the world, besides Cabs, Merlots, and Shirazes.

    For instance a 2007 Chateaneuf-du-Pape would be ripe and bold. An Italian Amarone would have the earthiness and the sweetness. A Sicialian Nero d’Avola would be full-bodied and peppery. A Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero in Spain. Or even an Argentinian Malbec might add a darker note.

    As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “expand your pal(ate)!”.
    Iron Chevsky.

    • Liren

      Gary, I’m so glad that you stopped by to lend your expertise on the wine pairing. I do tend to stay within my comfort zone, and I admit it’s easy to focus on all the local wines, since there are so many excellent ones around here (lucky us!). Slowly, I am learning my way around the wines of the world; it will take some time! But I have to say, I adore Malbecs, and agree that would be wonderful with this pot roast! Thanks so much for the encouragement! Look forward to trying your recommendations!

    • Liren

      Hi Jean, thank you! I’m so glad you stopped by! I love how your blog is coming along!

  14. Joy

    That looks really good. I tried to make pot roast with pearl onions but I think I added it a little soon. It didn’t keep the shape.

    • Liren

      Hi Joy, yes the pearl onions can be a little tricky. If you like them firmer, then definitely wait a while before you add them (perhaps at the same time as the potatoes). I added them right before placing them in the oven, but I enjoy a softer consistency and the flavor it lends. They held their shape surprisingly well for me!

    • Liren

      Hi Lori Lynn, thank you for dropping by! Kudos to you, too on Top 9! Your Pasta e Ceci looks absolutely delicious!

  15. Spicy Green Mango

    It was cold and rainy today, so this definitely hits the spot! I was just in SF for work and could have used a hearty helping of this in my belly. Lovely, Liren!

    • Liren

      So true, on days like these (especially in blustery downtown SF), this is just the thing to warm you up!!! I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the warm weather ahead, though. As much as I like hibernating and cooking up yummy dishes like this, I think I’m ready for summer!

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