Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Pot Roast Post

You know when you have the perfect recipe, and you make it-- a lot-- and then you get tired of it? That's what happened to us.

Mama and I love the basic pot roast recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I like Mark Bittman's cooking style; he writes simple recipes that work.

Basic Pot Roast:
1-2 cloves garlic
1 (3-4 lb.) piece chuck or rump roast
1 bay leaf, crumbled finely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 c. chopped onions (about 2)
1 c. peeled chopped carrots
1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
1/2 c. red wine
1 c. chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  1. Peel garlic clove and cut into tiny slivers; insert into several spots around the roast, poking holes with a thin-bladed knife. Mix bay with salt and pepper; rub roast with mixture.
  2. Heat oil over med-high heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot that can later be covered. Brown the roast on all sides, taking your time. Adjust the heat so that the meat browns but the fat doesn't burn. Remove the meat to a platter and add the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Cook over medium- high heat, stirring frequently, until softened and somewhat brown, ten minutes.
  3. Add the red wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until wine has almost evaporated. Addd about half the stock and return roast to pot. Turn the heat down to where the liquid just simmers.
  4. Turn the meat every so often (Bittman recommends every fifteen minutes, but mine's lucky if it gets turned every half-hour to hour) and cook until it is tender-- a fork will pierce the meat without pushing too hard and the juices will run clear-- about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours-- but possibly longer if your roast is large or "tall". Add more stock if it looks like it's drying out-- not very likely. Do not overcook; when the meat is tender, it is done. (Another note on this-- there are varying degrees of doneness with roast-- I like to stop when the "bones are loose" and the meat is "fork-tender".)
  5. (You can skip this step if you wish) Remove the meat from the pot and keep it warm. Skim the fat from the juice and reduce the remaining liquid until it's al most evaporated. Serve the roast with the pan juices.
  6. Note: This can be cooked in the crock pot on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. It all depends on the size of your meat. Just test it-- when it just starts to fall apart and is tender, it's done. My favorite way to cook this, though, is in my trusty IKEA enameled dutch oven. (It's not Staub or Le Cruset, but it's made in France and the top knob has no problem with oven temps. It's the same material as the pan.)

The only problem is this: we've made it too many times this winter. My dad is tired of it. We've made it with beef. We've made it with venison. We've made it a lot. So last Saturday, as I was contemplating the meat we have stored in our freezer, I decided to try something different. I've wanted to make a roast with tomatoes, Italian-style, for a while, but the basic recipe was so good that I didn't want to mess it up. But when you're tired, really tired of a recipe, you're willing to mess around. I looked in my trusty '93 edition of Joy, and found a recipe for Italian Pot Roast.

Ingredients? (sort-of) Check. Technique? Check. Time? Check. But if you've ever cooked out of Joy, you know that their recipes can be somewhat fussy. This was no exception; I took out the second reduction with wine and broth and stuck with one. I also added a smidge of sweetening because it tasted just a little too herby/sour. (But then, that could have been from the can of Italian tomatoes I threw in instead of regular. And it could have been from the dried herbs.)
And I cooked it all night in the crock pot (low heat) so we'd have less fuss on Sunday afternoon.

Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. tightly packed fresh parsley leaves (or 2 T. dry)
4 fresh sage leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 beef roast, 3 1/2-4 lbs.
1 t. salt
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf, broken
1 1/2 c. red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 c. beef or chicken stock
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed
(1 t. sugar--optional)
  1. Combine garlic, parsley, sage, and rosemary. Divide approximately in half; to one half add the 1 tablespoon olive oil and black pepper. Make about ten slits in the roast; stuff olive oil and herb mixture in slits.
  2. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in dutch oven on med- high heat. Add roast and brown an all sides until brown and crusty on all sides, about 20 minutes. Remove roast from the pot and sprinkle it with salt.
  3. Add onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and bay to the dutch oven; cook until onion is lightly browned. Add in the remaining herb mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and 1/2 c. red wine, and boil until almost dry. Add in remaining wine, stock, and tomatoes. Add roast; bring to a simmer and then reduce heat so that the liquid barely simmers. Taste; add sugar if needed.
  4. Cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, turning every 30 minutes or so. When the meat is tender, remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil Skim off fat; tasted and adjust seasonings. If the sauce seems weak, boil it down a little. Slice meat and moisten it with braising liquid. Serve with polenta.
  5. Notes: This recipe can also be cooked in the crock pot on low, 5-8 hours. I didn't turn it in the crock pot but once (I think).
The verdict? My family liked it, so I'm happy. The Italian Pot Roast made a lovely sauce, even in the crock pot. And served with the polenta, it felt extra-special.

No comments: