#RecipeUpTop (Details below):
For the pot roast:
- 1 Large Beef Chuck Roast;
- 1 carrot;
- 2 stalks celery;
- 1 small yellow onion;
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth (optional);
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce;
For the gravy:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter;
- 4 tablespoons four;
- 1/4 cup cream or half and half;
For the mashed potatoes:
- 4 Maine potatoes;
- 1/2 stick of butter;
- 1/2 cup of whole milk;
For the green peas:
- Green peas (fresh or frozen)
Method: Salt the chuck roast liberally at least an hour ahead of cooking (and preferably overnight). Brown the salted roast in a braising dish, then remove and add the mirepoix and sweat. Deglaze with vermouth and Worcestershire, cover, and braise in a 225F oven until fork-tender (at least four hours). Remove the finished roast, and cover to keep warm.
In a separate pan, create a dark brown roux with the flour and butter, add to the reserved braising liquid, and bring to a simmer. Add the cream or half and half, and simmer to desired consistency. Adjust for seasoning with salt and black pepper.
Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil until fork tender, then drain. Mash, then add butter and salt to taste. Thin with whole milk to desired consistency, but avoid overworking the mash. Adjust seasoning to taste.
For the peas: simply heat to temp in boiling water, or steam, then drain and serve.
As we’ve progressed along through this lifestyle change, and focused more on bulk purchasing and long-term cost reduction, we’ve noticed a few unexpected side effects. For example, our pork consumption has been relegated to bacon and BBQ, both of which are treats. We’ve seen a correlated rise in the number of meals that contain some element of chicken (be it homemade stock, home-butchered skinless breasts, home-ground thighs, etc). Lastly, our red meat dinners have dropped to once per week, or less.
I’d pretend this was done of some noble environmental concerns, or health benefits, but (while those are certainly positives), this reduced beef intake was really just the result of two people looking at each other every day for a year, and asking “what do you feel like for dinner?”
That said, the secondary effect to all of this is that when the red meat craving hits, it hits hard. The upshot is that, with reduced consumption comes the ability to spend a litter more on higher quality products and cuts. As a result, we really only eat two cuts of beef: rib eye steaks that we butcher ourselves from a whole primal; and chuck roasts. (We’ll be doing a whole series in the very near future about our bulk-buying, butchering, storage, and overall setup.) While steaks are a great, quick-cooking meal, sometimes the snowy days of winter beg for the lip-smacking, meat-on-steroids experience of a classic, slow-braised pot roast.
This is a dish that takes all day, but it’s worth it. Plus, most of the time is idle cooking, so it doesn’t take a lot of attention. It’s a favorite of ours for lazy Sundays of bad weather and worse movies. So, let’s get started.
Step one: salt your meat. I like to do this on a wire rack over a cookie sheet, but anything that has enough space to catch a little runoff will work just fine. Using kosher salt, season the roast liberally on both sides, and let it sit for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge.
While your roast is resting in the fridge, and the salt is working its magic, get your mirepoix diced, so it’s ready to go:
Step two: sear the roast, and sweat the veggies. But first, let’s talk about the cooking vessel.
This is a braise, so that means we’re talking low tempts, but a tight-fitting lid to maintain moisture. You can do this in any heavy-bottomed cookware with the aforementioned lid, and I’ve even seen Alton Brown do the whole thing in tightly-sealed tinfoil. Me? I use an enameled iron flying saucer:
Heat your braising vessel over medium, add a whisper of vegetable oil, and then your roast:
The goal here is, yes, to brown the meat, but not for a crust (the braising process would obliterate that). We’re looking more for this:
These bits and juices are flavor dynamite, and it’s important to ride your heat to make sure it doesn’t burn. When the roast is browned and removed, drop the heat to low and add the veg with a little sprinkling of salt:
Sweat until the mirepoix gives up its liquid and softens, which in turn should loosen up some of the fond on the pan. Add the vermouth and the Worcestershire, give it a good stir to make sure all the bits are up off the bottom, replace the roast, and get it in the oven at 225F:
So, no, that’s not a lot of liquid, but the roast itself is supplying most of the moisture here (you’ll see). This is also why a tight-fitting lid is paramount: we need to limit evaporation, and keep all of that good stuff in the pot.
This is it for a while. The roast is going to need at least four hours, and maybe up to six depending on the size of the specific cut, its individual marbling, etc. Typically, I may get this in the oven at ten or eleven in the morning, then go watch a movie or do some chores around the house, or whatever. Relax.
I am terrible at making mashed potatoes. Awful. I’ve made them into unseemly, weepy porridge. I’ve made them into gluey potato-spackle. I’ve routinely ruined them so thoroughly and so aggressively that I’ve been banned from making them by Mrs. 10Chickens. They are my Nicholas Cage, Gone in Sixty Seconds unicorn. I don’t know what the hell it is with them, but, well, I’m allowed to cut and boil the potatoes, and that’s it. So:
While we wait for help, let’s talk about the potatoes we’re using. We try to buy locally, which for Maine typically means in-state. We also don’t have a ton of money to spend on boutique spuds, and Maine has the answer. Our rocky soil provides a perfect growing environment for a wide variety of potatoes, and we like to produce some straight ahead “all purpose potatoes” that are a great mix between the mealy russet-style and the waxy red. These are the same little guys I use in my Maine Potato Chowder. They hold up to broth, but they break down and emulsify well into a silky mash, and they make some seriously fantastic chips (another post coming soon). They’re also $5.00 for a 10lb bag. Yay!
Through the magic of the internet, Mrs. 10Chickens has arrived, and dispenses the following wisdom: mash the potatoes by hand, then return to low heat.
Once you’ve beaten them up sufficiently, return to low heat, add the butter and mix until it’s melted and incorporated. At this point, you may want to retire the masher and switch to a wooden spoon. Add some of the whole milk, and mix to combine.
Per the Mrs., keep adding butter and milk until you have the desired consistency, understanding that each liquid addition will temporarily get soupy, then will tighten back up. She also cautions to GO SLOW with these additions to avoid the potato swamp issue I’ve been repeatedly reminded of with a well-deserved scowl.
Let’s talk roux. It’s a magical mixture that deserves a post all it’s own, but for this discussion let’s keep to the basics: it’s a mixture of equal parts flour and fat (in this case, butter) that is cooked to varying levels of toasty colors, designed to add flavor and act as a thickener. Here, we’re going for flavor over body, so it’s a dark brown roux we’re after.
Melt your butter, then add your flour and whisk:
I use a cast iron skillet, because I like the heat retention, and it’ll stand up to the abrasive whisking that’s about to take place. You can use stainless as well, but avoid non-stick at all costs here, and really, I wouldn’t use enameled cookware either, if only for the metal contact.
Regardless, whisk everything together and cook over medium-low heat.
Keep it up, slowly, until you hit dark brown, like this:
Then get the whole thing into the pot where the roast used to be:
You may need to add some additional liquid here, depending on what your roast has given up and what’s evaporated. From this photo, I did. If you do too, just add a little water, as the flavors are already concentrated. You don’t want to use stock or anything else at this point. It’s all about balance. This is what it should look like:
From here, TASTE IT. It may be perfect. Frequently though, I add a bit of cream or half and half to add a little sweetness and richness. Totally optional.
Oh, heat up your peas.
Plate everything up, and enjoy. Maybe top with some parsley from your sink-window wine-bottle herb retention center. The good news is this is a $10.00 piece of meat that will feed four adults easily, but almost always has leftovers. Very, very useful leftovers. But, that’s for tomorrow. Tonight, well, tonight is for pot roast.