I’ve been making this sweet and sour pot roast for years ever since I found the recipe in an obscure cookbook called Menus and Memoirs: Confessions of a Culinary Snob by George Spunt who spent his formative childhood years in a wealthy French-Austrian Russian family who emigrated to Shanghai in the early part of the 20th century and lived there until communist rule took over. He spent his remaining years in San Francisco and wrote several more books including a step by step guide to Chinese cooking, which he learned from the family Shanghainese chef who was commandeered by various family members to cook middle European food in the Chinese manner. It’s an interesting compilation indeed.

Fall roses and pot roast

The method is both simple and brilliant.  A big hunk of beef like brisket or chuck is braised in an onion fortified mixture with a little stock and seasoning.  During the last hour of braising (about 3 hours in total) raisins that have been soaked in Sherry are added to the pot along with brown sugar, red wine vinegar and tomato paste.

I used a thick cut of brisket, which is the very fatty version of the leaner first cut.  In this case you want the fat to moisten the meat, and the braise is refrigerated overnight (or even two nights) to let the fat congeal to remove easily and for the flavors to marry well.

Sweet and Sour Pot Roast

Sweet and Sour Pot Roast

Pot roast with glazed carrots


  • 3- to 5-pound brisket
  • Oil
  • Seasoned flour (salt, pepper and paprika)
  • 3 large onions, about 4 cups, onions, chopped
  • ¾ cup stock
  • 1 ½ cups raisins soaked in Sherry
  • 3 hefty tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly dredge the beef in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and sear the meat all over in the hot oil until nicely browned all over.
  3. Add the onions, stirring frequently until they’re nicely colored (not browned). Return the beef to the pot, making a well in the center of the pile of onions. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and braise in the oven for at least 2 hours until barely fork tender.
  4. Meanwhile put the raisins in a 2-cup measure to yield 1 ½ cups raisins. Fill the measuring cup with enough Sherry to cover the onions. Let steep for two hours while the roast braises. Decrease the raisins to 1 cup if using a smaller cut of beef.
  5. Add the raisins and sherry, brown sugar, vinegar and tomato paste, stirring it to combine. Cover the pot and return to the oven for at least another hour or until the meat is fork tender. Refrigerate overnight (but let the pot cool down before putting in the refrigerator). You can let the meat sit for 2 days if that’s convenient.
  6. Skim off the congealed fat, bring to the simmer and then return to a 325-degree oven until the meat is warmed through. If the sauce seems thin (it shouldn’t be), you can add a cornstarch slurry to thicken.
  7. Slice and arrange on a large platter and surround with glazed carrots and serve with mashed potatoes or noodle pudding. I also served this with locally made challah by Bubbe and Bestemor’s baking company, available at Rose Foods.
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