If you were asked to name a dish from the state of Mississippi, you might think of some delicious, freshly-caught seafood, or a creamy, chocolatey Mississippi mud pie. But in recent years a new Mississippi dish has been taking America by storm.
The history of the Mississippi pot roast is the story of a beloved family recipe that went viral, but remained largely unnoticed by food writers and commentators. Instead, it gained popularity the old-fashioned way - by word of mouth - with a little help from modern technology.
Every family has their own version of an old-fashioned pot roast (and if yours doesn’t, why not try one of these?). They’re easy to make, full of flavor, and they taste and smell like home. The Chapman family, from Ripley, Mississippi, are no different. Their family roast was created sometime in the early 2000s by mom Robin, who made an on-the-spot change to a chuck roast recipe from her aunt, swapping out the Italian dressing in the original for ranch, and adding a few pepperoncini.
This new version of the roast proved so popular with the family that Chapman made it again and again, and a few months later she served the dish for childhood friend Karen Farese, who was also a big fan. Chapman shared the recipe, then known simply as ‘roast’, with Farese, who later contributed it to a cookbook published by her local church, the Beech Hill Church of Christ.
From here, the story passes to Judy Ward, a member of the Beech Hill congregation who read the cookbook, loved the roast, and started serving it for Sunday lunch. She would make it when her niece, Laurie Ormon came to visit, and eventually the roast made its first foray into the online world via Ormon’s blog, ‘Laurie’s Life’.
The first online recipe for the Mississippi pot roast was posted in November 2010, about ten years after it was first invented. The blog describes it as ‘the best roast in the world!’ and although Ormon admits that the ingredients ‘sounded awful,’ she urges her readers to trust her, and the replies show several people eager to try the recipe for themselves.
The recipe gradually gathered new online fans, and in early 2011 it was posted by another blogger, Candis Berge, who was the first to christen it ‘Mississippi roast.’ In August 2011, Berge’s blog entry was added to Pinterest by a user called the Prairie Cottage, and from there it caught the attention of other pinners, who also began sharing it on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter. By the end of 2015, the recipe had been pinned over 1 million times. Fast forward to today, and every food blogger has their own version. Not bad for a recipe that was improvised on the spot.
So what is it that makes the Mississippi pot roast so special? Perhaps it’s that it was never designed to be part of a food trend. Instead, it was created as a quick, fuss-free way to satisfy a hungry family, and it works without the need to look for exotic ingredients or to learn complicated techniques. The basic ingredients come together to produce something that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it comes recommended by real people who have tried it and loved it.
Like that first online recipe said: trust us.
Mississippi Pot Roast: the Recipe
- Boneless chuck roast
- 3 to 4 lb
- Au jus gravy mix
- 1 sachet
- Dry ranch seasoning and salad dressing mix
- 1 sachet
- Pepperoncini peppers
- Pickled, 1 jar
- 1 stick
Preheat your oven to 350°F
Put the meat in a cast iron braising pot. Over a medium-high heat, brown the meat for around 4 to 5 minutes on either side to add color and flavor.
Remove from the heat. Take 3 tablespoons of the juice from the pepperoncini jar and drizzle it over the meat. Sprinkle the gravy mix and ranch seasoning over the top, then add the butter. Take 4 or 5 pepperoncini from the jar and arrange round the edges.
Cover with the lid, and place the pot in the oven. Bake for 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender and falling apart. Shred the beef with two forks, and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles or rice.