Growing up, my mother would make pot roast for a Sunday meal, or for when we had company; it’s a lovely reminder of home.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Combine the salt, pepper, and ground fennel in a small bowl. Generously season the roast with the spice mixture.
Add enough oil to a large Dutch oven to coat the bottom. Heat it over medium-high heat, add the roast, and sear 8 to 10 minutes total, turning to brown all sides. Transfer the roast to a bowl.
Add the carrots, onions, and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables until browned, 5 to 8 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove the vegetables and place in a clean bowl.
Deglaze the pot with 1 cup of the cider. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Add 2 cups of the broth and bring it to a boil again.
Add 4 sprigs of the thyme, the rosemary, bay leaf, and roast to the pot (reserving the vegetables in the bowl). Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Cover the pot, place it in the oven, and roast for 2 hours. Add the reserved vegetables and roast for 1 more hour, until the roast is fork-tender but not mushy.
Remove the roast and vegetables to a large bowl or platter and cover to keep warm. Let the braising liquid cool slightly, then strain the liquid into a bowl (discard the solids).
Skim off any fat that has risen to the top.
Purée the braising liquid in a blender.
To make the sauce, heat 2 tablespoons oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine with the oil. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup cider and the tomato paste and mix well.
Return the braising liquid to the pot along with the remaining 1 1/2 cups beef broth and the remaining 2 thyme sprigs. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs.
To serve, slice the pot roast, arrange the vegetables around it, and pour the sauce over the top.
Variations: Tipsy Pot Roast
In many pot roast recipes, there is an element of alcohol. In mine, I use hard cider, but you can also try red wine, a heavy beer, or—for your Irish friends—Guinness. The booze gives the meat an extra dimension but won’t get the family hammered.