These are not the beautiful "make mine rare" roasts of the Dinner Party or the Company Banquet. They are the softly-falling-apart-into-the-gravy chunks of gently-cooked meat with the rich flavors of careful browning and a judicious hand with the roux and the salt. The pieces of tender brown roast and the succulent gravy over homemade mashed potatoes could grace a State Dinner, and should.
There are three methods for making a “Roast” in the background of my cooking life: My Mammaw’s, which usually was actually “Steak and Gravy” in a big clear holds-a-gallon Pyrex, covered with the tight, matching lid.
MAMMAW'S STEAK AND GRAVY
Buy a couple of pounds of Round Steak, cut it into serving-size pieces (usually about three per steak). Put some flour, salt and pepper into a pieplate and dredge the pieces well on both sides. Brown them in several tablespoons of Crisco or Wesson Oil in a heavy skillet, just like you were cooking Country Fried Steak.
(If you’re actually using a Roast for this, get a nice two or three pound flat one, never the round ones which should be dry-roasted). Brown the entire thing in one piece if you like, then proceed with the recipe).
Cut up two or three big onions and about six ribs of celery into good-sized pieces. Put the first layer of browned steak into the bottom of the Pyrex (it can still be bleeding---do not cook it done while browning it, for it will cook til falling apart later). Layer on half of the onion/celery mixture and repeat the layers.
Make Gravy: Kinda eyeball the amount of grease left in the skillet, and make sure it equals about 4 tablespoons. Stir in that much of the dredging flour and turn heat fairly low; stir this roux with a flat paddle, scraping the bottom well each stroke, until it’s a nice nutty brown.
Stir in three pints or so of boiling water, being careful of the violent bubble-up. Stir mixture til it’s a thin gravy, then pour carefully over the steak in the bowl. Cover tightly, put into a 350 oven and bake at least two hours. CAREFUL again when removing lid---steam is very dangerous.
Gravy will thicken and meat will be fork-tender. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Leftovers (if there are any) make a superb Stroganoff with a little sour cream stirred in.
Then there was MAW'S METHOD---simple as all-get-out, like the Boiled Beef of centuries, but somehow meltingly delicious:
Same steps---flour roast, brown it. Put it into a BIG heavy Wearever with a lot of chopped onion and pour on plain water to cover. Salt lightly. Bring to a boil, cover, set into a 350 oven for two hours (or just let it simmer on top of the stove---same difference).
When roast is fork-tender in the broth, lift out meat with two egg-turners and set aside. Take a pint jar, put in 1/3 cup of the dredging flour, almost fill jar with water, screw on the lid, and shake like mad. Be sure broth is boiling and set small strainer across pot; strain thickener into broth, stirring til it’s thick and rich. Salt and pepper to taste, return roast to pan, being sure it's coated in the gravy, and serve.
70’s SUNDAY ROAST---ten minutes actual work:
Put two large sheets of Heavy Duty foil into baking pan---large enough to wrap roast with a couple of good folds down. Lay in a 2 or 3 pound roast, sprinkle on one envelope of Lipton Onion Soup (or onion/mushroom or vegetable), clop on a BIG can of Cream of Chicken Soup (or three little), fold foil down carefully into folds twice, do the same for the ends so no steam can escape, and bake for two to three hours at 350.
On any of these, you can add carrots, potatoes, whole baby onions (even Brussels Sprouts---the favorite of DS#2) halfway through, or you can steam the vegetables separately and put them in for the last 20 minutes or so, to soak up some of the gravy’s flavor.
The real beauty of all three of these is that they take exactly the time to cook as it takes to change into your Church Dress, herd all the chillun to the car, drive to Sunday School and Church, visit for a little bit with your neighbors in the parking lot, and drive home to a fragrant house and delicious Sunday Dinner.