[Photograph: Jennifer May]

Today I'm going to try to make the case for pot roast at Christmas dinner. Sure, it may not be as much of a showstopper as a crown roast of pork or an elegant roast goose, but when prepared properly, a pot roast will be far more tender, delicate, and memorable than any of these typical centerpieces. Even better, it can be made in advance and popped in the oven to heat through at whatever hour needed.

Amy Thielen's pot roast in her new cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, is by far one of the best I've made and a fine choice for December 25. Cooked at only 285°F, the chuck roast emerges from the oven impossibly succulent. It's dressed up with roasted cherry tomatoes and a shower of a gremolata-like pistachio and parsley salt for a festive touch.

Why I picked this recipe: Pot roast for Christmas? Bring it on.

What worked: Not much more difficult than turning on the oven, this pot roast was a perfect example of the form. From now on, I will always cook chuck roast at 285, and will keep the pistachio salt in my back pocket for topping just about any rich, meaty dish.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: You could certainly tweak the vegetables to suit your tastes. Potatoes, parsnips, celery root, and rutabaga would all work just as well as the carrots, turnips, and celery already in the pot.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The New Midwestern Table to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.


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