Autumn comfort: What we need right now

Dive into autumnal recipes with chef Laura Frankel.

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I love autumn. The crisp, chilly nights, muscular squashes, fragrant herbs, and colorful leaves are refreshing and invigorating. It is my favorite season for cooking. Summer's dainty appetites are replaced with real hunger and long, slow-cooked, comfort foods are what everyone craves. 

This autumn, as the news and world are unsettling, I am longing for coziness in my life. I want to wrap myself, everyone, and everything around me in a big blanket.

Meat! I have almost completely forgotten meat. I spent most of the summer enjoying tomatoes, eggplant, summer squashes, and my beloved wild salmon. I don't eat a lot of meat, especially during the summer months, but somehow a long, slow-cooked, and aromatic roast is the perfect counterpoint to this season.

When I am slow-cooking and braising, I long for the cheaper cuts. The marbled texture of fat and meat bastes itself as it cooks, luxuriously long and slow, yielding a meltingly tender finale. Summer's grilling is all about quick cooking, and that just isn't the mood right now. 

This year, I am breaking out my Dutch oven and my slow-cooker a few weeks early. I like this method of slow-cooking for the season and for the meditative experience. The process is calming, and the meat will be complexly flavored and as comfy as a fireplace on a chilly night.

Like Mrs. Maisel's magical brisket that grants wishes and cures homesickness, a slow-cooked pot roast is just the homey meal I want right now.


Braised Garlicky Pot Roast with Ancho Chiles and Prunes

I am craving this mouth-watering pot roast. Earthy ancho chiles and deeply flavored prunes add perfect notes to long-cooked tender beef. I like to serve the pot roast in large chunks on a bed of Yukon Gold and Butternut Squash Mash. No fussy slices here, just pure comfort and flavor.

Serves 6+

4-5 pound chuck roast, tied (ask your butcher to do this)

Sea salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 medium Spanish onions, sliced

3 medium carrots, sliced

2 celery ribs, sliced

2 heads garlic (yes, the whole head, not cloves!) peeled, separated into cloves and each one smashed

2 cups sliced, pitted prunes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

6 ancho chilis, stemmed and seeded (anchos are not spicy, they add an earthy sweetness to dishes)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Bouquet garni of fresh thyme, rosemary, and parsley sprigs tied together with twine

1 bottle fruity red wine such as pinot noir

  • cups homemade or purchased chicken stock

For garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Pat dry the pot roast and generously season with salt and pepper.

3. Place a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium-high heat. 

4. Sear the roast on all sides until the roast is dark brown (about 5 minutes per side). Transfer the roast to a roasting pan.

5. Add onions to the pan and sauté until deep brown and very fragrant (about 7- 10 minutes).

6.  Add carrots and celery and continue cooking until lightly caramelized.

7. Add ancho chilis, garlic and prunes and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.

8. Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar, and cook paste until it has darkened slightly and the vinegar is a thick glaze.

9. Add wine and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up browned bits.

10 Transfer all ingredients to roasting pan or keep in a Dutch oven. Add chicken stock.

11. Cover and braise for 2½ -3 hours or until a fork can easily pierce the meat without resistance.

12. Remove meat and lightly tent with foil for 30 minutes.

13. Strain vegetables out of braising liquid and transfer liquid to a saucepan. Reduce liquid by ⅔ or until it clings to a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

14. Remove string from roast and cut into large chunks. 

Serve with 


Yukon Gold and Butternut Squash Mash

A creamy and earthy mash-up (!) is the perfect soaker-upper for tender pot roast and all the lovely pan juices. I love the texture of Yukon Gold potatoes better than Russet for this mash. The creaminess and color are gorgeous, while the silky texture feels both cozy and decadent.

My no-drain method of cooking this mash makes the job easy and mostly hands off. Most mashed potato recipes have you cooking potatoes in liquid and then draining the potatoes. Sure, the potatoes are mashable, but most of the flavor goes down the drain and the potatoes end up watery and lackluster.

My method keeps all the flavor in the pan and nothing goes down the drain. Be sure to use a delicious and fruity extra virgin olive oil to add a healthy, rich flavor. 

Serves 4

2 teaspoons + 3 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

½ pound Butternut squash, peeled and diced

1½ cup chicken stock (homemade or purchased)

For garnishes: chopped flat leaf parsley, chives

  1. In a medium saucepan, sweat garlic in 2 teaspoons evoo, over medium heat until soft and fragrant (about 3-5 minutes). Add potatoes, squash, salt, pepper, and stock.
  2. Cover and cook until potatoes and squash are very soft and can be mashed with a fork. If there is remaining liquid, continue cooking on low with the cover off until all liquid has been absorbed and evaporated.
  3. Add remaining olive oil, and mash potatoes with a potato masher or immersion blender until creamy and no lumps remain. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 


Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.    

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