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QMy husband and I enjoyed a delightful evening with our good friends at Big Sky Cafe in Webster Groves. Our friends recommended the pot roast and polenta. I have failed miserably in the pot roast department, so if you could persuade them to share their recipe I would be so appreciative! — Mary O’Neill, Webster Groves

A • Chef Dominic Weiss of Big Sky Cafe makes that delicious pot roast, and he’s more than willing to share his recipe with Post-Dispatch readers. He uses chuck roast for this comfort dish with ingredients chosen to bring out its flavor. He tempers its tough tendencies with cooking methods guaranteed to deliver a meltingly tender roast at the end of a long braise.

You’ll find some fail-safe ingredients in this recipe — onions, celery, carrots, red wine and rosemary — but Weiss adds a wild card or two to the mix and shuns some traditional choices. “The Granny Smith apples added a flavor we were looking for, a nice tartness,” he says. “With chuck there’s a quite a bit of fat. A bit more tartness along with the acids from the red wine and the vinegar brings it all together. The tomato paste has got a good sweetness to it that gets a little boost with the honey.”

The combinations work well in this hearty dish. “With the Granny Smiths, the onions and even the celery it’s such a long slow braise that most of them disintegrate into the stew where the carrots will hold their shape, so cut them how you like them. We cut ours nice and big for that roasted carrot flavor.”

The chuck roast in this recipe is cut in large 3- or 4-inch pieces, so it isn’t sliced and served. A chuck roast is difficult to slice because the muscles in the shoulder and neck, where this cut originates, run in different directions. It also isn’t necessary to closely trim the fat from the chuck roast with the long braise, but if there’s a tough silver skin or hard fat, cut it off.

“It’s hard to go wrong with this recipe, but I will offer it’s pretty important when browning the beef to get a good sear on all sides. It works out much better and gets more tender that way,” Weiss says.

“You can certainly add garlic, but we don’t use it. At Big Sky, more and more of our customers avoid garlic for one reason or another,” he says. “The pot roast is one of our signature items, so we certainly want it to be a go-to for most people with no drawbacks.”

Although it generally takes about three hours for the meat to finish, Weiss wants cooks at home to check after two hours because oven temperatures vary and smaller pieces of meat may cook more quickly. “We like the meat to hold its shape but to be fork tender,” he says.

In addition to the signature pot roast, fall customer favorites include a roast pumpkin and bacon soup with maple roast apples, a curried butternut squash soup, and an apple cider braised pork shoulder with roasted Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Big Sky also offers offers family-style meals to go that serve four to six people. “People call ahead, ordering from the carry-out menu we have online, and we have it ready for them to pick up,” Weiss says. The restaurant also hosts private parties and offers a catering menu as well.

In addition to regular service, the restaurant hosts special wine dinners and events. “Keep an eye out for our fermented evenings, which we post on our website,” Weiss says. “People can also sign up and receive emails about events as well.”

During the opera and theater seasons at nearby Loretto-Hilton, Big Sky Cafe gets especially busy around the 6 o’clock hour with preshow diners, another plus for the Webster Groves neighborhood this cafe calls home.

Big Sky Cafe

47 Old Orchard Avenue; Webster Groves

314-962-5757; bigskycafe.net

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