VOL. 38 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 21, 2014
Restaurants feeding our demand for Yankee (Yankee?) pot roast
The Two Bits pot roast is braised in stout beer. Vegetables are added toward the end before the dish is finished with butter and malt vinegar. -- Jennifer Justus | Nashville Ledger
Sometimes, in a new relationship, the cook will try to show off in the kitchen.
I know I did.
I hustled over elaborate steakhouse-style dinners, stood over simmering pots and cut up whole chickens for fricassees. I ruined pie crusts and glazed cakes when all he ever really wanted, it turns out, was a pot roast.
It’s the only dish he’s ever requested.
Lucky for both of us, the pot roast seems to be having a renaissance in restaurants.
You’ll find pot roast on the menu at two of Nashville’s newest spots – Two Bits and Pinewood Social. Both of these places put focus on fun with nostalgic video games at Two Bits and vintage bowling lanes at Pinewood, and both offer some comfort through food.
The pot roast at Pinewood Social Club, one of Nashville’s new hot spots. -- Andrea Behrends
Given the hoopla over Southern food lately, I find it refreshing that pot roast offers comfort in ways fried chicken doesn’t (not that there’s anything wrong with that). With the full name of “Yankee Pot Roast,” this dish comes from the land of enduring harsh winters and deep snows.
The Art of braising
According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the term pot roast as a way to cook meat with vegetables in a covered vessel began appearing in cookbooks in the late 19th century.
But the method used to cook it – braising – is much older. Pot roast might have evolved from the colonial-era New England boiled dinner of cured meat with vegetables.
But in pot roast, fresh and often tougher cuts of meat are browned and then cooked slowly to soften them while turning marbled fat to silky gravy.
We’ve obviously adopted pot roast thoroughly in this region because most people seem to have a favorite method and story behind it.
Pot roasts can be personal. Find the one you like at these local restaurants.
Chef Josh Habiger, who cooked last at The Catbird Seat, offers a more sophisticated pot roast at this restaurant.
33 Peabody St.
Pot roast fits on this eclectic menu of comfort food including lamb neck tacos and gouda-cheddar mac and cheese.
1520 Demonbreun St.
Look for the pot roast on this meat-and-three menu on Thursdays.
4004 Granny White Pike, 383-7242
94 Peabody Street, 742-5545
You’ll find pot roast on the lunch and dinner menus here made with brisket, heirloom carrots, parsnips and fingerling potatoes.
7114 U.S. 70S #109
This old-school Nashville pub offers pot roast as a special every other Friday as well as other comfortable casseroles like squash, broccoli and sweet potato with a nutty, sweet crumble on top.
4410 Murphy Road
I mentioned to Amanda Saad, who blogs at loveandnachos.com, that I had been thinking about pot roast, and she told of her two favorites.
One includes red wine, dried onion soup mix and tomato sauce served over egg noodles.
The other, from the German side of her family, offers a cousin to pot roast called Sauerbraten. It involves brining the meat first, then cooking it with cloves, pickling spices, cider vinegar, and topping it with ginger snaps. She serves it with spaetzle and red cabbage.
Chef Josh Habiger at Pinewood Social remembers his family pot roast, too, but his take at the restaurant is intentionally the opposite.
Rather than cream of mushroom soup and carrots that dissolve when prodded into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West, his carrots stay firm and vibrant when roasted with turnips. The meat, tri-tip, is incredibly tender after cooked sous-vide, but it keeps its composure and calls for the civility of a knife and fork.
The Two Bits version braises in stout beer for about two and half hours. Carrots, pearl onions and tiny potatoes are added toward the end before the dish is finished with butter and malt vinegar to give it snap.
We tried both Pinewood and Two Bits versions of the pot roast, and enjoyed them for different reasons. While some foods are fun to eat for offering a new experience, others entertain as being familiar and finding their place among our own story.
Martha or Ina?
Regardless, I knew the time had come to make one at home fulfilling that single request.
I searched recipes online and considered the straightforward Yankee Martha Stewart version as well as a posh Hampton’s version from Ina Garten with its Cognac, Burgundy and twigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.
But then I figured the road to a perfect pot roast for this guy could only start at one place.
And so, I emailed his mom.
*In the food business, being “in the weeds” means being super busy. And that’s also how we would describe Nashville’s booming restaurant scene. In this column, Jennifer Justus, journalist, author and food culture writer, keeps us up to date on food, dining out and trends with bi-weekly reports from the table.