Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Pat O’Malley’s Pot Roast

Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook and this week, I’m preparing a recipe from a star who has fallen pretty deeply into obscurity.

(You can catch up on all my taste tests here.)

You can be forgiven for saying, “Who?” about Pat O’Malley. I said the same thing. Pat O’Malley is sometimes confused with character actor J. Pat O’Malley, which is fair enough. Our Pat O’Malley was never an enormous star but did well enough and worked steadily in bit parts until just a few years before his death in 1966. Respectable? Yes but not really memorable.

O’Malley spent the early part of his stardom at Edison, where he was often paired with Shirley Mason (Viola Dana’s sister) in wilderness pictures, which were hot stuff at the time. He spent the rest of the silent era bouncing around various studios. As far as I can tell, exactly one of his films is available on home video, the circus melodrama Spangles. (It’s the kind of picture Beatrice Lillie was sending up in Exit Smiling.)

With Marian Nixon in “Spangles”

As stated above, O’Malley’s later career is pretty much made up of bit parts but he did appear in a couple episodes of The Twilight Zone, so you just know I’m going to have to do something about THAT.

Anyway, here is Mr. O’Malley’s recipe:

Yum! Slow-cooked anything is delicious and while the ingredient list is simple, there are a lot of secret flavor weapons inside. First, O’Malley has us brown the meat, which may seem obvious to us today but a good number of vintage recipes omit this step. Next, the recipe includes a good dose of celery, which contains phthalides— compounds that punch up sweet and savory flavors. Carrots and onions add sweetness and complexity. There’s a reason why the carrot-onion-celery combo is a classic. And, of course, chuck is a famously flavorful cut.

My colorful carrots! Aren’t they cute?
Carrots meet celery

I just used a supermarket chuck roast. I didn’t have enough people to consume five pounds of meat, so I bought a 1.5 lb. roast and adjusted the recipe accordingly. The celery and onions were your standard supermarket models (yellow for the onion) but I got zany with the carrots. The multicolors don’t survive cooking but they’re fun to use.

The veggies on the roast. Isn’t it a thing of beauty?

I used a small amount of vegetable oil to prevent sticking and browned the roast on all sides. Then I added all the veggies, popped on the lid and cooked the thing over low heat. The watery vegetables quickly gave up their juices, resulting in a flavorful broth.

Not so pretty but very juicy.

As the meat cooks, you’ll want to check on it periodically and add some water if it starts to look dry. Not much, just enough to prevent burning. Remember, this isn’t a soup.

After six hours…

I cooked for the entire recommended six hours and did it ever smell good! It wasn’t so gorgeous after a while but the delicious scent wafting from the dutch oven more than made up for it.

Out of the pot

At the end of six hours, I removed the meat from the pot (careful, it’s fall-apart tender) and poured a little juice over it to keep it moist and then covered it with foil to keep it warm.

The veggies and juices. I don’t pretend that it’s beautiful but it IS absolutely yummy.

O’Malley recommends stirring in some horseradish along with flour to thicken the juices. Problem: everybody in my family hates horseradish. I used good mustard instead as the sauce did need a bit of brightening. (You could also use red wine or cider vinegar for this.) Then I checked for seasoning (needed salt) and plated the sucker. Naturally, this was served with mashed potatoes.

By the way, I obviously have a dutch oven and highly recommend them but if you don’t have one, this recipe would probably be just as successful using a crock pot (be sure to deglaze the pan in which you brown the meat) or a roasting pan in a low and slow oven.

Nom nom nom!

Score: 5 out of 5. Wow, this is what American comfort food is all about!  The gravy is pretty chunky and if that’s an issue, you can either run it through a sieve or give it a whirl with an immersion blender. I don’t mind the chunks of veggies myself.


This recipe is everything you could possibly want in a pot roast: tender meat, great flavor, delicious gravy. I did not have a single shred of meat or a single drop of gravy left.


I’m in love! This recipe is definitely going on my winter menu. I’ll probably add a few additional vegetables to the mix but even this simple version is scrumptious.

This recipe is a complete home run, exactly the kind of vintage cooking that I love. I hope you’ll give it a try.


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  1. Marie Roget

    Very nice basic recipe for old fashioned Pot Roast, Mr. O’Malley! Wonder if a Gran O’Malley was involved in it somewhere down the line 😉

    Now that I work from home and don’t need the slow cooker quite so often, actually prefer a Dutch Oven for this sort of one-pot meal. Chilis, stews, soups, any kind of roast all seem to taste better done slowly on the stove (and bonus points for that delicious bring-’em-to-the-table aroma!).

    Those are lovely carrots you used. Hereabouts locally grown autumn/winter root veggies starting to make a big appearance, so some cut parsnips and rutabagas, small red potatoes or fingerlings may go into my version. Also a couple of garlic cloves, some leeks, shallots, bay leaves, a little paprika…O’Malley’s Pot Roast needs a little TLC via some subtle seasoning! Steaming a few of the more colorful veggies (those great carrots!) and slipping them into the pot 10-15 mins. before serving can brighten up the platter for a “company” presentation. Nothing says cooler days and first lighting of the fireplaces in the evening like a Pot Roast Dinner 😀

  2. Craig Buehler

    So neat to see Pat O’Malley mentioned on your website – I’ve been helping his grandchildren do research on his career – true very few of his films are available on DVD but he was a pretty big star at the time and co-starred with many of the top female leads at the time: Viola Dana (at least 3 times), Colleen Moore, Madge Kennedy, Marjorie Daw, Marguerite De La Mode, Mary Philbin, Miss Dupont, Bebe Daniels, Mea Busch, Marie Prevost, Renee Adoree, Barbara La Marr, Laurette Taylor, Mary Astor, Dorothy Mackaill, Eleanor Boardman, Laura La Plante, Virginia Valli, Claire Windsor, Mildred Harris, to name a bunch. He was also an actor and part of the crew on the O’Kalem films which I’ve seen mentioned on your site.

  3. Marie Roget

    Doing an O’Malley Pot Roast this coming Sunday evening (10/15/17) and have shopped a couple of nearby farmers markets for seasonal additions to it: baby red potatoes, the brightest orange carrots have ever seen ( with lovely greens), some really nice yellow onions from a neighbor, our own garlic bulbs, stalks full of local Brussel Sprouts to be roasted as a side. Will let you know how this variation turns out. Hope to do Pat O’Malley proud 😀

      1. Marie Roget

        It WAS yummy! Had a huge cut of chuck and a ton of veggies, but we’ve got very little of it leftover in the fridge. This Silent Star Recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser- thank you very much, Mr. Pat O’Malley 😀

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