When it comes to pot roast, I am old school. I only use onions because they impart amazing flavor and make the gravy a smidge more substantial. Otherwise? To borrow from the classic John Huston directed "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) and referencing the oft misquoted line spoken from Gold Hat, played by Alfonso Bedoya, "Vegetables? We don't need no stinkin' carrots, mushrooms or celery!"
The bigger issue with this recipe is my love/hate affair with Campbell's canned soup. Yeah, yeah, I know the sodium content is off the charts. And a quick search of the inter webs offers a plethora of recipes to make your own. But the reality is, the recipes I grew up with that use a canned soup have a distinct flavor profile and, heck, you can't beat the price.
That said, ordinarily, I would try to make everything from scratch, but I have several easy-peasy, money-saving, go-to recipes that rely heavily on the food giant's creamed cans of sodium. In fact, for this recipe, I turn to two pantry, albeit salty, favorites...Campbell's Cream of Celery and Lipton Onion Soup Mix! Who. Am. I? Oh yeah, and do not, under any circumstance, use any other brands than Campbell's and Lipton. Even my frugal mother agreed on this point. And, except for meat and onions, those are the only other two ingredients in this recipe.
Also important is to pick your cut of meat wisely. Look for deep and plentiful marbling...with such a simple recipe, this is from whence virtually all of your flavor will come. A boneless chuck roast is your best bet. The finished product is tender, juicy and easily breaks apart. Round and brisket can work, too, and both are excellent cuts, but I swear by the chuck. (Save the brisket for my soon-to-be-posted recipe, "We'll always have Texas, Tyler.")
Look for meat with plenty of marbling. As for the onions, trim closely, but leave a little bit of the root end so that the 1/4s stay together.
A dinner featuring pot roast always takes me back to Sunday meals with my family. My mom claimed to hate cooking, but gosh, she made some incredible, edible delights. That said, her kitchen gadget of choice was the Crock Pot.
Patented back in 1940 as Irving Nachumsohn's "Cooking Apparatus," it wasn't until 1970, when he sold his business to Kansas City’s Rival Manufacturing for cash, that the Crock Pot took a place of pride in just about every kitchen.
In addition to Rival's marketing campaign designed for working women, "the newest addition to the work force," the energy crisis played a big role in its success. Boasting that your Crock Pot could "cook all day while the cook's away," an 8-hour preparation time used about as much power as an incandescent bulb (60 watts, about .04 cents back in the early 70s), compared to the alternating-current-guzzling-electric-oven (2000-3000 watts per use).
But don't peek once a meal gets started.
Every time you lift the lid on your Crock Pot, all of the heat that has been slowly accumulating to reach the desired (and needed) cooking temperature is released. You then need to add 30 minutes to the total cooking time every time you peek (yikes, talk about delayed gratification), so try to resist the temptation no matter how wonderful it smells.
We had the Harvest Gold Crock Pot...it was very technical, as you can see. Courtesy image.
Mom loved the "dump-and-go" aspect of Crock Pot cooking and she would gush, "Plus, I can serve dinner right from the lovely ceramic dish that it cooks in!" From Mary Alice's point of view, this really was quite the kitchen marvel.
All kidding aside, it did make a wonderful meal and I have one that I use for this dish (as well as a few other yummy meals). It's also great for entertaining when you might need to keep a dish warm for extended periods of time.
Serve with creamy mashed potatoes (in a bowl, natch) and ladle on a generous, heaping helping of meat and gravy...a crack of black pepper finishes off the dish.