Basic Pot Roast
- 4 lb chuck roast
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced
- 1 C red wine
- 2 C beef stock or water
- 1 lb small potatoes, Yukon gold or red skin, cut into ¼’s
- 3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper. Rub with olive oil and place into a sealable bag with the herbs and let marinate overnight. This step can be skipped but adds a good deal of flavor as the salt penetrates the meat bringing the flavor of the herbs with it. If you have the time and the forethought, it is well worth it.
- Find a braising pan in your kitchen. This can be a classic Dutch oven or a stockpot that will be covered with tin foil. The critical components to a braising pan are that it can go from the stove top to the oven, that it has a heavy bottom to achieve an even, scorch free sear, and that it have some sort of a lid even if that means a double layer of tinfoil cinched tightly.
- Heat oven to 300F. Heat a glug of oil in that pan until shimmering. Sear the chuck roast (herbs and all) until it is dark, darker than you might think. The myth is that this sear keeps the juices in the meat. It does no such thing but it does convert the sugars in the meat to a caramel crust. The liquid in which the meat will cook dissolves that caramel adding an inviting complexity to the cooking broth. Unbrowned meat will still taste good but there is little stand in for that deep rich flavor developer.
- Remove the meat from the pan and deglaze with the red wine. Deglazing is adding liquid to a pan to release the browned bits (frond) left in a pan after searing. You can do this with any liquid but by using something acidic gives the final dish a bright note to contrast the richness of a slow-cooked meal. I never braise without that element.
- Allow the wine to reduce by half adding the onions and garlic and letting it sweat in the wine as it reduces.
- Nestle the roast into the onions and garlic. Add the stock and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Returning the liquid to a boil shortens the cooking time in the oven. Putting cold liquid in the pot and relying on the radiant oven heat to bring it to temperature could take a couple of hours. This way you’ll braise for 2-3 hours as opposed to 5. Conversely if you need to take more time, put cold ingredients into the oven. This is an example of how to make the food work for you, not the other way around.
- Transfer the pot to the oven. Allow the meat to cook until ¾ done (about 1 ½ hours) and then add in the carrots and potatoes. This way they will cook through but maintain their structural integrity.
- The meat is cooked and tender. It will have a gentle giggle when probed with a finger showing the collagen giving up its tension. The muscles will pull easily when encouraged by the fork or knife. It is possible to over cook a braise, the meat will be dry and a bit stringy, but the margin for error is wide.
- If you have the time, allow the meat to cool in its cooking juices overnight and then rewarm the whole thing for the next night’s dinner. This is not essential but allows the flavors to mingle and deepen. If you can’t be bothered simply serve it and it will delight nonetheless. Before serving, if the cooking juices are not thickened and taste thin, simply remove the roast and boil the liquid down until it tastes perfect. Taste it as it reduces and keep going until it is knocking your socks off.
- Bask in the radiant glow of your friends praise while tidying up.
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