Here’s the dish on pot roast

In response to my last post (“Food for thought,” Mar. 8, 2013), an inquiring mind asked me to research the origin of Yankee pot roast. She also wondered if there was a rebel pot roast. Let it be said that the questioner is a Yankee living in the South who is as capable of Googling up answers to questions as I, but for some reason thinks I’m scholarly. I’m pretty sure scholars use Google as often as everyone else.

Yankee pot roast is a dish that originated in the United States but is based off a European cooking technique called braisingyankee-pot-roast The dish was originally prepared in New England — hence the Yankee in Yankee pot roast, according to wiseGeek, a website that offers clear answers for common questions with a team of apparently smart people who like to research obscure topics.  I’m sure the team member who researched this topic has no reason to fudge the answer. I think we can safely assume there is no such thing as rebel pot roast, unless we count the cook who refuses to follow the standard Yankee pot roast recipe.

My mother used to make pot roast for dinner quite frequently when I was a kid. I disliked it then and I still do. Therefore, the topic of pot roast is now closed! (Sorry again, Mom!)


7 thoughts on “Here’s the dish on pot roast

  1. As the “inquiring mind” who asked the question, I did a little reading on the internet about the topic as well. Here is a summary (actually a cut and paste of what she/he said; I was too lazy to summarize) of one person’s opinion, posted on that sounded quite sensible to me. BTW, I have always loved pot roast. Over the years, I’ve altered my Mom’s basic recipe a little bit to include some red wine and mushrooms.
    “I completely agree with the point many are making that pot roast can mean many things, from ossobucco to braised brisket – and I’d go further by saying it doesn’t have to be beef – but I think it’s possible that the confusion here is regional. Just like there are a plethora of dishes that count as barbecue, but barbecue has a specific meaning in East Carolina, pot roast is a specific dish in the Northeast. I’ve seen this dish called Yankee pot roast in the rest of the country. It’s traditionally made with chuck (preferably bone in), onions, potatoes, root vegetables, salt, and a small amount of water (not stock or beer or wine or anything like that, and a much smaller amount of liquid than is used in most braised dishes, and no spices or herbs or anything.) It’s a traditional, use a bunch of stuff from the root cellar to make a hearty winter meal sort of a dish.

    While all those other dishes might also be pot roasts, I would never call them that. When I say pot roast, it will always mean what I describe above. When you hear pot roast in the Northeast, you can always count on it being exactly that (with the exception that, if the speaker is from a Jewish background, they might mean braised brisket). Occasionally people mess around a bit with the basic recipe, trying to make it more flavorful by using a liquid other than water or adding more flavorful ingredients like tomatoes. A lot of old school New Englanders will then say that doesn’t count as pot roast, much like old school New Yorkers don’t think gourmet pizzas or Chicago deep dish pizzas count as pizza.

    Also, I’ve found that at any restaurant calling this dish Yankee pot Roast, it’s going to be bland and unappetizing. A Yankee would not see the need to qualify pot roast as Yankee, just like a New Englander says chowder (or maybe clam chowder), not New England clam chowder. That’s the only kind, so there’s no need for qualifiers. And, while the dish can certainly be bland and unappetizing when not made properly, it’s very rich and beefy when properly made (preferably with bone in chuck that has the fat cap intact and none of the connective tissue removed). How could it not be? Chuck is one of the beefier tasting cuts, and with only a small amount of water used, you’re essentially making a stock that is rich enough to serve as a gravy.”

    • See, you are scholarly, too! I’ll definitely be posting on the topic of barbeque as a verb vs a noun in the future. I love this: “…any restaurant calling this dish Yankee pot Roast, it’s going to be bland and unappetizing. A Yankee would not see the need to qualify pot roast as Yankee, just like a New Englander says chowder (or maybe clam chowder), not New England clam chowder. That’s the only kind, so there’s no need for qualifiers.” Ha!

  2. I also did a little research on chicken and dumplings. From what I could find, it seems like southern style chicken and dumplings may be made with dumplings that are more noodle-like. I don’t know if the style my Mom made with soft-dough dropped “biscuit-like” dumplings on top is more common up north or if it simply came into being with the marketing of Bisquick (dumpling recipe is on the box). And, before anyone denigrates Bisquick, it is just flour with the salt and baking soda already in it.

    • I’m always annoyed when people down here talk about chicken and dumplings and they’re referring to noodles. Dumplings are biscuits! I make the BEST chicken and dumplings ever. If you take out the biscuits and replace them with noodles you get chicken noodle soup. Duh! I’m not a fan of Bisquick. Too salty and it already has the shortening in it. I prefer to mix my own dough. But to each his/her own! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. My mother used a brisket…cooked on top of the stove for3-4 hours. I hated it…still do. I make a pot roast for my husband. I use chuck and a slow cooker. I eat something else.

  4. A jolly good read | Random AnnAcdotes

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