FAIRBANKS — Sometime in 2010, as near as the Internet can estimate, a recipe for an unusual roast beef appeared on a food blog. The author of the blog “Laurie’s Life,” one Laurie Ormon of Bentonville, Arkansas, raved about it, calling it the “BEST ROAST IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!,” complete with uppercase letters and as many exclamation points.
Ormon had eaten the roast while visiting her aunt in Mississippi, learning that the author of the recipe, one Robin Chapman, was a friend of a friend of the aunt who prepared the roast.
Early in 2011, another food blogger, Candis Berge, picked up the recipe off Ormon’s blog and shared it on her food site, “A Perfectly Lovely Ordinary Day.”
In August 2011, the recipe made the leap to Pinterest, where in true Internet fashion, it took on a life of its own. Bloggers shared it. Pinterest junkies pinned it. Potluck organizers craved it. It morphed over to Facebook and Twitter, getting shared over and over, ever lurking in the depths of social media food sites. Then, in early 2016, the New York Times found it. And promptly altered it.
Since then, the recipe — now known simply as Mississippi Roast — has become the pot roast recipe that broke the Internet. From its humble beginnings as a family staple in the Chapman home in Mississippi to its now-ubiquitous online incarnations, the roast is the gold standard of Internet recipe lore.
In a detailed interview with the New York Times, Chapman discussed how she got the recipe from an aunt who made it for years as a family dish before Chapman shared it with her childhood friend who shared it in the church cookbook where Ormon’s aunt found it and made it for Ormon, who put it on her blog, thereby helping create the roast to end all roasts. Whew.
The Internet being what the Internet is, it’s been pinned more than one million times, according to Pinterest. Most authors stuck to Chapman’s version, which is simply a chuck roast covered in powdered au jus gravy, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, butter and pepperoncini peppers. It’s deceptively simple and incredibly flavorful.
The New York Times allotted a portion of its food section to the roast, going into great detail about the history of Chapman’s creation. The Times also remade the roast, offering a slightly different version than the original, using all homemade ingredients while eschewing anything packaged.
While on vacation in February in California, my brother asked me if I had heard of Mississippi Roast. Indeed I had, I told him, but had not prepared one. He decided that was what we should have for dinner one night, and one grocery store trip and 8 hours later, we were feasting on the Times’ version of Mississippi Roast.
Since then, I’ve made Mississippi Roast several times at home, both the New York Times version and the original Robin Chapman version. I will leave it up to you as to which version you prefer, but you really can’t go wrong with either. Both are easy and convenient since you use a slow cooker. I’ve even made it in a Dutch oven one night, which altered the delicious gravy not in taste but in texture since the Dutch oven cooks hot and fast while the slow cooker goes slow and low.
The recipe itself is pretty foolproof. I’ve made it with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker as well as just the roast itself. It’s great on sandwiches or on its own and can be adjusted to feed crowds large or small. If the slightly spicy pepperoncinis aren’t your thing, toss in just a few. Want it more spicy? Load the roast up.
I’ve included both Robin Chapman’s version and The New York Times’ version here. Either way you make it, know you’re eating a piece of Internet fame, spicy gravy and all.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.
Mississippi Roast No. 1
(The original Robin Chapman version)
One 3-4 pound roast, your choice of cut
One stick butter
1 package au jus gravy mix
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
Pepperoncini peppers, number to your liking and a little juice
Put the roast in a slow cooker. Sprinkle on the au jus gravy mix and Ranch dressing. Top the roast with the stick of butter and pepperoncini peppers, including a little juice. Put the lid on and cook on low until fork tender, 6 to 8 hours.
According to Robin Chapman, as she told “Good Morning America” in January, “Sometimes we use chuck, sometimes sirloin tip, sometimes rump. Sometimes we sear it. Sometimes we don’t.”
Mississippi Roast No. 2
(The New York Times version)
1 boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast, 3 to 4 pounds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 to 12 pepperoncini peppers
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon buttermilk, optional
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Place roast on a cutting board and rub the salt and pepper all over it. Sprinkle the flour all over the seasoned meat and massage it into the flesh.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan set over high heat until it is shimmering and about to smoke. Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes a side, to create a crust.
Remove roast from pan and place it in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the butter and the pepperoncini to the meat. Put the lid on the slow cooker, and set the machine to low.
As the roast heats, make a ranch dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Add the buttermilk if using, then whisk again. Remove the lid from the slow cooker and add the dressing. Replace the top and allow to continue cooking, undisturbed, for 6 to 8 hours, or until you can shred the meat easily using 2 forks. Mix the meat with the gravy surrounding it.
Garnish with parsley, and serve with egg noodles or roast potatoes, or pile on sandwich rolls, however you like.