This recipe from the PBS show, Martha Stewart's Cooking School, was just what he had in mind. Tender and full of flavor from more than three hours of slow cooking, he was oohing and aahing and completely satisfied with our new pot roast find. If you're looking for food that is old school, but has a modern day approach, this pot roast is it. Plus, the gravy might be one of the best ever.
Heat a Dutch oven over high heat for 2 minutes. Pat meat dry with paper towels and then season on all sides with salt and pepper. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot and heat until shimmering. Add the meat and sear until golden brown, turning to cook on all sides evenly for a total of about 8 minutes. (Don't be tempted to turn the meat too soon or it will stick to the pan and tear; instead, wait until it easily releases from the pot.) Once it is nicely browned all over, remove it from the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add olive oil and all of the aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme) and stir well to coat. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, 2-3 minutes. You may need to slightly increase the heat after a minute or two if the onion is not softening. If the garlic begins to burn, add a little water and stir up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir to coat everything evenly; cook the flour just long enough to remove the starchy taste without taking on any color, about 30 seconds. Add vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Be sure and scrape up all of the browns bits from the bottom as this is what is going to give rich and deep flavor to the gravy.
Once the liquid boils, add the roast back in the pot; the liquid should just come up about 1 inch up the sides of the meat. Reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering, not boiling, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
While the meat is braising, turn it every 30 minutes. The meat should be almost tender after 2 1/2 to 3 hours. A sharp knife inserted into the center should meet with little resistance. Remove the meat from the pot. Strain the braising liquid through a fine sieve, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the aromatics.
Return the roast and the now strained thick and gorgeous gravy to the pot. Nestle the garnish vegetables around the roast, submerging them a bit in the thickened, golden gravy. Now the gravy should almost reach the top of the vegetables. Bring the gravy to a boil and them simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. The meat should be very tender by now and give no resistance when pierced with a knife. At this point, the meat will be firm enough to slice, but if you want it falling-apart tender, cook about 30 more minutes.)
Transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving platter, leaving the gravy behind (there should be about 1 cup). Cover and keep gravy warm near the stove. Let the roast rest about 20 minutes and then slice (with the grain--this is the trick) to desired thickness. Generously spoon gravy over the pot roast and vegetables. Serve with remaining gravy on the side.
If you have any leftovers, slice a piece of meat and place in a pot with gravy. Heat over medium high until bubbling and warmed through. Place on your favorite slice of bread and enjoy, just like our grandparents and great-grandparents used to do. Simple and delicious.