Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Cooked Comfort Foods

Perfect Pot Roast (now more commonly called Braised Beef)

While growing up in the picturesque Adirondack region of upstate New York, complete with rolling hills, apple orchards and ski resorts, my parents would prudently take advantage of the many local farms and purchase half a steer every year-- literally all the pieces of half a cow would be delivered to our house!  I vividly remember when it would arrive --  my mother would spend a long afternoon sealing and labeling each cut before placing in our enormous deep freezer.  Luckily for us, and to the amazement of our friends when they joined us for dinner, my sisters and I grew up eating steak whenever we pleased.

While the memory of eating copious amounts of steak is now hazy, I fondly remember devouring other cuts, specifically -- the chuck roast, which  my mother would succulently prepare into her most famous winter comfort meal -- slow cooked pot roast. She cooked it to perfection, it crumbled off the knife and melted in the mouth.  Some years ago, long after my parents moved to Florida and my mother stopped preparing these heavier meat dishes, I asked her for the recipe. Her reply:

"Oh, I don't remember, dear!"


So I was on my own!  After numerous attempts to resurrect my mother's pot roast, some rather unfortunate outcomes, much research, and various ingredient combinations, I finally achieved the incredible taste that I nostalgically remember from childhood.  Strangely, the trick (recalling our deep freezer) is to use frozen meat! When chuck is frozen it seems to initiate the break down of fats and proteins, creating a more tender pot roast.

If it's a chilly day, roasting meat in the oven is heavenly! And here is what you will need:

5 lb Boneless marbled Chuck Roast (preferably frozen)
2 turnips
3 parsnips
1-2 potatoes
6 celery stalks
2 onions
3 shallots
5 cloves minced garlic
1 leak
6 carrots
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme
3 Dried Bay Leaves
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
Egg Noddles
olive oil
optional -- mushrooms, tomato paste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Cube the parsnips, turnips, celery, potato, carrots, shallots, mushrooms and leaks.  Separate cubed vegetables into two bowls (half will be cooked now, the other half later).  Dice the onions and sauté them in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. For a deeper flavor, add in a tablespoon of tomato paste (optional). After a minute combine the the first bowl of cubed vegetables with the onions. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and the wine. 

Salt both sides of the meat and place it in the center of the pot. Add in the beef broth, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. 

As the name suggests, pot roast can stew on the stove; but I prefer to use the oven.  Cook the covered roast for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Cook for a least 4 hours. 

One hour before serving, remove the vegetables from the pot as well as enough of the liquid to prepare a gravy.  Add in the second uncooked bowl of vegetables and cook with the roast for 1 hour. 

While the vegetables are cooking, slowly wisk a tablespoon of flour with the liquid until desired gravy consistency is achieved. If it becomes too thick, add in some beef stock and/or wine.  If it's too thin, add in more flour. 

Once the vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness, remove the pot from the oven and carve away!

On this occasion, I served the pot roast with gravy egg noddles (mashed potatoes work well too!), pureed acorn squash seasoned with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, and the delicious cubed vegetables that were cooked in the meat juices.  Adding a side of cheddar cheese popovers is always a hit, too!

Bon Appetite!

If you are lucky enough to have leftovers --

1.  Use it for beef barley soup.  

2.  Or, make hot, open-faced meat sandwiches. Fork the meat apart, cook it in gravy, and serve over fresh toast.  The kid's will love it!

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