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Grandma Esther's Thanksgiving Pot Roast Recipe

Updated on October 18, 2011
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Grandma Esther's Special Holiday Treat

Despite the Normal Rockwell (oops -- is that a Freudian slip? I meant Norman Rockwell) paintings, many American families celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in alternative ways. Depending on their culture, their feast may include some variation on the classic turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Just as their day may not center around watching football on TV.

Who knew other families did Thanksgiving differently? I only discovered this by accident when I broke out of my very traditional New England Yankee cum Irish New York family mold at the ripe old age of 28. Imagine! I could have gone my whole life on a steady holiday diet (ha ha) of Tom turkey surrounded by mashed potatoes, candied yams and the ubiquitous green bean casserole.

Lucky for me, I didn't!

Thanksgiving as carnivore's paradise

The backstory on Grandma Esther's Thanksgiving Pot Roast Recipe

The first time I met my fiance's family he brought me home for Thanksgiving. We'll leave the culture shock of meeting this warm, boisterous New York/New Jersey Jewish clan for another hub. Today I'm here to talk about pot roast.

Pot roast was my mother-in-law's contribution to the festivities. Yes. Pot roast. She cooked it at home, sliced it, and schlepped (that's Jewish for carried) it wrapped in foil with the gravy in a separate container.

This was not in lieu of turkey, mind you. This was in addition to the monster turkey with all the trimmings. Every year some 22 +/- family members gathered around a table that engulfed the entire dining room, spilling into the hall. Every year these revelers were served two different meats: turkey and pot roast. If you like meat, this is your kind of dinner.

Now, it's been almost 25 years since my first Thanksgiving with that family, and 12 since my last east coast Thanksgiving. I know there's a good reason for the pot roast. I believe one of the cousins hates turkey. But it doesn't really matter.

Whatever the origination, pot roast has become as much a Thanksgiving tradition as anything else -- and that includes the bowls of cole slaw and pickles on the table. But again, I'm not going there today...

This is an eye round
This is an eye round

So easy to make and soooo delicious

Now once again, I must admit this is not the pot roast I grew up eating, with potatoes and carrots and brown gravy (so-called "Yankee Pot Roast"). Esther's pot roast is all beef, smothered in a sweet/sour red sauce guaranteed to make any starch on your plate (try it with mashed potatoes, egg noodles or polenta) thirsty for seconds!

If chicken soup is the Jewish penicillin, this is the Jewish Vicodin. I'm serious!

Here's how you can whip up your own batch of Grandma Esther's Pot Roast:

2 to 2.5 lbs beef. I use "eye round" because that is what Esther used

1 package of dried onion soup

1 cup of ketchup (or catsup if you prefer that spelling)

Equal parts water and red wine -- about 1 cup each

Garlic powder -- to taste (this is optional)

You should NOT need any salt because the soup is salty. But add some if you like.

I love pepper so I pepper the meat as I am browning it.

Brown the meat on all sides. You can do it under the broiler or (as I do) in the same Dutch oven/iron pot you cook it in.

Drain the grease from the pan.

Add onion soup, ketchup, water and wine.

Simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours until meat is tender. You could cook in the oven but Esther did hers on top of the stove so that is how I do mine.

Sauce may thicken so continue to add water (and/or wine) if you want.

When meat is tender, remove from pot.

Refrigerate meat and sauce separately.Overnight if you can-- that really helps the sauce flavors marry.

Slice the meat (it's much easier to slice cold), return to sauce, reheat and serve.

Nothe: I call it Grandma Esther's Pot Roast because both Esther and my ex-husband are now deceased. But I make it for my son as a way to honor his dad's side of the family.

The finished project looks something like this. Yum!
The finished project looks something like this. Yum!
This is what the sliced beef looks like
This is what the sliced beef looks like

You and Thanksgiving

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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      10 months ago from Ohio

      This is my kind of dish. Sounds delicious and easy to make :)

    • 2patricias profile image


      5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This looks delicious, and I like the story.

      I am adding it to my Recipe Index for HubPages.

    • DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

      Felix J Hernandez 

      8 years ago from All over the USA

      Ty so much for this recipe. It gave me something new to cook for thanksgiving for me. I will tell you how it was after Thanksgiving...1

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Turkey anxiety? That I will have to read about. And instant flan -- IDK. I think it looks a lot easier than the kind with all the eggs and milk etc.... Good luck and be sure to let us know how it comes out! MM

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well, now I have a project. I'm not against instant flan mix. I'll look for it and let you know the results. :)

    • Jess Killmenow profile image

      Jess Killmenow 

      8 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

      This looks delicious, but we'll have to have it some other time than Thanksgiving, because for Thanksgiving, we have turkey. I'll have to write a hub about turkey anxiety.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Well I must confess I've experienced the real thing a few times. In Spain(not trying to brag here) and a few good restaurants here in the USA.

      Several years ago I bid on and won a dinner for 8 prepared in my apartment. I honestly don't recall what the chef cooked in terms of food -- but I absolutely remember dessert! We have some fun photos of guests grabbing the torch to help singe the sugar on top. Yum-o (as Rachel Rae would say).

      BTW, today in the grocery store I actually looked at packages of creme caramel and flan. By a company called Dr. Oetker. It looked very good but I'm not cooking tonight -- Hubby is making linguini with clams. So I didn't want to mess up the kitchen with a bunch of milk....

      Soon, tho!

    • ehern33 profile image


      8 years ago

      MightyMom, Sorry, you are right, that is one way to do it and many restaurants in the south do it this way. And here I thought I was going amaze you.. You must watch the food channels. Yummy..

      Actually I will give you a second chance. I have tried the Jello one and it is Ok when you are in the mood but don't have the time. But, there is nothing like the real thing.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      wsp -- At my Thanksgiving dinner we will have all the traditional stuff (and stuffING).Turkey is the order of the day. I think the poor quality of the football compounds the tryptophan effects!

      ehern -- You are NOT playing fair now. I know exactly what you mean. That caramelized topping is created with flame. Preferably a torch tableside for effect. I can taste the flan now. May have to make some for dinner tonight!

      JJ --See? That's adding some flavor to the meal. I guess when you come from the land of the Pilgrims you don't think about things like posole. Tamales are yum-o. We have a wonderful lady in our life who brings us batches of them at Christmas also. A lovely tradition.

      Pam -- Ehern will no doubt disown me as a Hubfriend for this suggestion, but... you can actually make a fairly decent flan at home. I will have to go look in the store for the brand. Jello might even make one. And it comes with the caramelly syrup. Not crystalized, but pretty darned close!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, sounds yummy. We do a similar version with chuck roast, onion soup mix, and cream of mushroom soup.

      BTW--My sweetie LOVES flan. I've never tried to make it. If you order flan in a restaurant up here, you never know what you will get. Anything from brownish pudding in an ice cream dish to something that looks a little like cheesecake and anything in between, usually with lots of whipped topping and sometimes chocolate topping!!! but NO crunchy carmelized top on the flan, which I now want really, really bad...I mean seriously, that sounds delicious.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      great hub...and now I am hungry too! In my family we always made Pozole and Turkey for dinner (of course the regular other foods; mash pot, pumpkin pie) and we make Tamales on Thanksgiving and Christmas time too! I guess everyone does it different huh?! As long as we eat! Good hub chica!

    • ehern33 profile image


      8 years ago

      Mighty Mom, I forgot to mention the caramilized sugar crisp we top the flan with. You actually have to crack it in order to get to the flan. I know, I am not being nice to you.. Sorry.. ;-)Goodnight..

    • wsp2469 profile image


      8 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

      if you invite me to dinner I will eat anything you want me to eat . . . however, if I was ordering Thanksgiving dinner I would have to insist on turkey. I love eating it cold in my bare hands the week after as well as the chemical nap it encourages in us.

      I think we men have the same chemical in us. It is only set off after good, hard rough sex and the briefest word from a woman right after sex though . . . not at any other time.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi ehern33.That actually sounds yummy to me. I love roast pork. Love black beans and rice also. Your desserts, however, would make me want to skip the main dish altogether. Flan = AWESOME and rice pudding also!

      I just had bloodwork done and was happy to see my cholesterol had gone down a bit. I'm afraid that after reading your T-day menu it's back up again:-). MM

    • ehern33 profile image


      8 years ago

      Mightymom, my parents were Cuban and grandparents Spaniards so I grew up in a mix co these cultures plus adopting the American Culture in celebration. For Thanksgiving we do both Turkey and roast pork. We actually roast a full size pork. We have the traditional side dishes but we include black beans, rice, and a root called "Yuca" which I beleive is cassave or manioc root, with a sizzling hot onion, garlic, virgin oil, bacon like dressing dripping over the top. Desserts we have pumpkin, apple, peacan, carrot, and from the old country tres-leche, flan (custard) and rice pudding. No wonder we have clogged arteries.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Nancy! See, I don't consider ham to be a Thanksgiving meat at all. Easter,yes. Possibly Christmas Day and New Years Day. But not Thanksgiving. Although we cooked one last weekend -- had a week of leftovers plus Hubby made some killer pea soup. Can you tell we love fall?

      Hi Gus, I LOVE brisket. This is pretty similar to brisket in texture. The sauce makes it special, tho.

      I just finished serving some to Hubby and my mother-in-law with some mashed potatoes. Glad I made extra!

      Good luck trying it. It should work just fin outside in a smoker I would think. Will taste more like bbq tho! MM

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      8 years ago from USA

      MM - Reads like a fine recipe. Will try it here. Usually we do beef in the brisket for 16-18 hours. the last time we did turkey in the smoker, we did it about the same length of time. 220 degrees for both of them. I like the idea of your onion soup, tomato stuff, etc. Will have to try them here. Never did beef in the smoker that way - means that I will have to use a big pan to hold the stuff. Thanks. Gus

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      8 years ago

      What a great recipe---thanks for sharing it. We have a very traditional Thanksgiving; turkey and the trimmings with ham for the meat lovers in our family...

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey Zsuzsy! Good to see you as always. I will be interested to hear if your gang likes this version. It's quite different, starting with the meat used. I do notice that, like a braised pork roast (another YUM dish I'll probably write about one of these fall/winter days) the meat does tend to shrink. Right now I'm cooking a double batch (gotta love Costco with their giant packs of meat!). I doubled everything. It smells HEAVENLY in here!

      And BTW, what do you mean you are wishing me happy T-day now? We're not even through Halloween! You had better plan on being around between now and the end of Thanksgiving young lady:-). But thanks!

      Msorensson -- Thanks.

      Kim -- We will be having traditional turkey for Thanksgiving as it's the Irish side of the family only with my Serbian mother-in-law (and they do theirs traditional also). I don't have my turkey yet but a fun interview (imaginary of course) would be the turkey who gets pardoned by the president (US). I imagine he must feel a bit like "we" do having been spared, eh?

      Dohn -- Garlic encrusted turkey sounds like an acquired taste. I've heard of making slits in meat (beef, lamb, pork)and filling them with slices of garlic. But turkey???

      As for the traditional Thanksgiving Day matchups. We should research who got the hapless Lions (not very well named) involved. Have they EVER won a game? LOL! Agree that football is as much a part of the day as anything else!

    • dohn121 profile image


      8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Good stuff, MM. I once went over to my sister-in-law's in which her mom who is Vietnamese brought over this garlic-encrusted turkey which although delicious, was very strong. I love Thanksgiving, especially after the earlier dinner where everyone's fighting over a spot on the couch to sleep while watching some NFL get their teeth kicked in (usually the Detroit Lions). Thanks for the hub!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love your humor and we just had our almost unheard of Thanksgiving.

      I love how big of a Holiday it is in the US.

      Hey, maybe I could interview your Turkey before Thanksgiving? Thoughts? Ideas?

      Love ya, nice job Ace

    • msorensson profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the way you wrote this article. Great article with great sense of humor.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      (almost forgot) Just in case I don't have a chance

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your gang.


    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Mighty Mom, I loooove pot roast. It is so easy to do when there is a whole big gang coming for dinner. I never add ketchup and onion soup mix to mine but will try it Sunday as I was planning on a roast for my gangs dinner anyway.

      Great hub and I especially love recipes with some personal anecdotes attached.

      Hope you're well

      kindest regards Zsuzsy


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