The dish J. and I call World's Greatest Pot Roast isn't a pot roast at all. More accurately it is my candidate for the World's Easiest Short Ribs, but the recipe started as one for pot roast and then morphed into the meat and method I use today.
Years ago I read a few lines in Laurie Colwin's "More Home Cooking" about chuck steak -- the preferred pot roast cut in my mother's and grandmother's kitchens. I remembered their fussing with carrots and onions and a bay leaf or two, but Colwin was saying I had no need for all that: "Get a large very thick chuck steak from the butcher," she wrote. "Take this steak and put it into a large baking dish. Season it with salt and pepper and cover it very tightly with tin foil. Stick it in a 275-degree oven and leave it for six hours."
So I did, and it was good. And God knows it was easy. But as the years went by and beef got younger and leaner, the once reliably streaky chuck roasts no longer seemed as succulent, no matter how low-and-slow they cooked. J. and I began fork-dueling for the meat closest to the bone, relegating the rest to unloved leftovers.
Then one day I spotted some beautifully marbled, thick English short ribs at the butchers' counter and decided to cook them via Colwin's method.
I found they didn't need six hours--more like three to four. But oh, sweet memories of childhood, this was marvelous meat, needing only a few spoonfuls of the pan juice, a generous lashing of chopped parsley and a side dish of creamy horseradish. Usually I accompany it with a salad of sliced radicchio dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and crumbled blue cheese or feta.
In summary: Make sure the short ribs are at least two-inches thick. Brush a heavy baking dish with olive oil, nestle in the ribs in a single layer, sprinkle on generous amounts of salt and pepper and cover the dish *tightly* with foil. Place in a 275-degree oven. (Make sure your oven doesn't run hot; many self-cleaning ones do.)
Start checking them after two hours or so, but there is absolutely no need to baste. If I start these early enough in the day, I usually reduce the heat to 250-degrees after the first hour, as I think slower and longer gives a better result. After the initial check-in, I peek at them every half hour or so, stabbing a piece with a sharp fork. They should be almost-falling-off-the-bone tender, but not mushy. I never try to have these finish precisely at dinner time, but aim for at least an hour ahead and then re-heat them just before serving.
This is a dish I make only when the weather turns cooler. Because each portion includes three chunky bones, our Border Collies enthusiastically endorse its return to the repertoire.