The Little Pot Roast That Could

When the pot roast became shepherd's pie, it needed mashed potatoes, left, on top, which I mixed with mashed cauliflower, right.

When the pot roast became shepherd’s pie, it needed mashed potatoes, left, on top, which I mixed with mashed cauliflower, right.

What a good little pot roast. It only weighed four pounds, but it kept saying, “I think I can,” and it went on forever, and gave us several meals.

We had a nice supper out of it when I first cooked it, and it produced lovely gravy. I merely filled the bottom of the Dutch oven with chunked up carrots, celery, and onions and cooked them in a bit of bacon fat. Then I added the beef, and a little water, slapped the lid on ‘er, and let it simmer the last half of the afternoon from 3:30 or so until 6:30. The gravy was the simplest sort – a little flour and cold water added to the pan juices. I fished out the vegetables and we ate some of those separately, and the rest of them I added to frozen carrot puree to make carrot soup.

For his favorite sort of lunch, Toby probably made three to four sandwiches out of the cold sliced pot roast, garnished with mayo and horseradish. Not as fond of sandwich lunches as Toby, I had one lunch sandwich.

After a while the little roast diminished to the place where cutting neat, thin slices was hard to do, so I turned the remaining slices into a hot pot roast sandwich by heating them in some of the gravy, and putting it on toast. I cut up the chunky pieces of pot roast that were left, and made them into shepherd’s pie with the remaining gravy, topped with homegrown cut corn, and a combination of mashed cauliflower and potatoes.

The mashed cauliflower was leftover from a supper I made out of an entire head of cauliflower. I found a recipe that showed me how to cut two slabs of cauliflower out of the center of the head, which I sautéed in oil with liberal lashings of cumin, chili, paprika, and salt and pepper. I chopped up the rest of the head, and steamed it until it was very tender, then mashed it up just as I do potatoes with butter and milk; and I dumped in a bunch of garlic for good measure. I served the cauliflower slabs floating on a plateful of mashed cauliflower. It is a very satisfying supper, very low in calories and carbohydrates, a good foil for all that pot roast.

So for the shepherd’s pie, the leftover mashed cauliflower with an additional mashed potato or two was all I needed. Three suppers and three or four lunches out of one pot roast? Way to go. God bless leftovers. If I had to start supper from scratch every night (with a recipe) I’d lose my mind.

Neither the pot roast or the mashed cauliflower really need a recipe. But here are slightly more formalized directions.

Pot Roast

2 tablespoons fat or oil

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into two inch long chunks

2 medium onions, chopped coarsely

A rib or two of celery

4 pound pot roast

A cup of water

Salt and pepper to taste

A tablespoon of horseradish or more to taste (optional)

Melt the fat and heat it or the oil, in a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the carrots, onions, and celery and cook them until the onions just begin to soften. Add the pot roast, and brown briefly on each side, then add water sufficient to cover the bottom of the pot. Add salt, pepper, and horseradish. Put the lid on and cook for three to three and half hours until it is very tender. Put on a platter with the vegetables arranged on top, if you wish, and make gravy out of the pot juices.

Serves four to six, (or in our case, two for a week.)


Mashed cauliflower and mashed potatoes before I mixed them together.

Mashed cauliflower and mashed potatoes before I mixed them together.

Mashed Cauliflower

One-third of a head of cauliflower, broken into florets



Salt and pepper

Garlic (optional, to taste)

Steam the cauliflower until very tender. Drain, then put back into the pan over a low heat. While mashing, gradually add a little milk until you achieve the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season with butter, salt, pepper and if desired, pureed garlic.

Serves two to three.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.