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#1020 - Pot Roast Guidelines
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Two things about the month of January: we're all more or less broke after the holidays, and it's just a tad nippy outside. So it's natural to turn our attention to big satisfyingly hot dishes that are easy on the wallet. And few items fit the bill like a good old fashioned pot roast.
So, which cuts are best? Well, look for cheap, gristly, fatty chunks of beef such as chuck roast, brisket, rump roast, arm or shoulder roast. The connective tissue will melt down during cooking, and give you better flavor, and improve the texture as the collagens break down and give a lip-smacking substance to the sauce. Prepare the roast by flouring it, and then searing gently in a cast iron skillet. This is vital. Once you start braising it, it will not brown, so do it at the top. For cooking, use a deep bottomed heavy skillet or Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid - cast iron is best. A sheet of tinfoil placed under the lid can help with a tight seal. Prepare a braising broth: mix a mirepoix and sautee it in the bottom of the skillet. Add beef broth, beer, or wine. Do not add too much! You are not stewing the meat, you are cooking with flavored steam, essentially. A cup or cup and a half is good to start. Have more standing by to top it up.
Consider preparing a bouquet garni, a mixture of herbs in a cheesecloth bag that can be dropped into the broth for added flavor. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
This is classic slow cooking, so you can do it over low heat, even better in a low 325 degree oven. Plan on letting it go for 3 hours or so. No need to turn the meat. The tight lid allows the steam to condense and fall back on the meat, in essence basting it. Keep it closed for most of the time.
You can add vegetables like carrots and potatoes late in the process, if there is room in your skillet. They'll take about 45 minutes to cook through. Consider cutting things into uniform pieces to hasten cooking time, and to insure uniform doneness.
Here's nice recipe for Italian Pot Roast:
Italian Pot Roast Recipe
3 1/2 to 4 pound rump or chuck beef roast
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large celery stalk, diced (about 1 cup)
1 medium red onion, diced (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
3 cups medium-bodied Italian red wine (we used a Barbera)
8 Roma style plum tomatoes, seeded
1. Trim some of the fat from the meat. Pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, shimmering but not smoking, add the roast and cook, turning it a few times, until it is nicely browned on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a platter.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are golden brown and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and sage, and stir until the herbs are lightly colored and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine and stir quickly, lifting up the richly browned caramelized vegetables that stick to the bottom of the pan. When the wine is almost all evaporated and thickly coats the vegetables, return the meat to the pan and turn it over a few times to coat it with the savory base.
3. Raise the heat to high, adding the remaining wine, the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, using a layer of tinfoil to allow a truly tight seal, reduce the heat to low and simmer, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender and flakes away when pierced with a fork, 3-4 hours. Add the tomatoes when there is about an hour left. When the meat is done, turn off the heat and let the roast sit in its juices for an hour. Remove it and set it aside, keeping it warm. You'll have some first rate sauce in the bottom of the braising pan, which you will strain and then return to the pan to reduce over high heat.
4. Cut the meat into thick slices (it will probably fall apart), and place on warm serving dishes. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve hot. Serve with risotto, herbed mashed potatoes, or polenta.