Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pot roast

For such a humble dish, it's remarkably easy to screw up pot roast. Pot roast cooks through braising, which uses slow, low heat and moisture to transform cheap, tough cuts into fork-tender meat by breaking down tough connective tissue. But if your heat isn't low enough, the meat toughens and dries out, hardening into a gristly, inedible mess. For whatever reason, I've only ever had this problem with beef pot roast. My pork braises are far more forgiving, coming out perfectly no matter what I've done. This is my slightly Frenchy recipe for pot roast, which rewards the wait with a tender, flavorful and satisfying dinner. Serves 6-8.

1. Cut 1 3-4 lb. chuck roast in half and salt both pieces all over. Heat a few T. of oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot on medium high. Sear the two chunks of meat all over. Let each side rest without moving for a couple minutes so a brown crust develops.

2. Remove the meat and add 1-2 sliced onions and a few sliced celery ribs. Saute until brown and deglaze the pan with half a bottle of red wine (go ahead and start drinking the rest).

3. Now add a 15 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, 2 T. Dijon mustard, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 T. Worcestershire sauce, 6-10 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper, crushed pepper flakes, fresh rosemary leaves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Return the meat to the pot. Get the liquid just bubbling, cover the pot and turn the heat as low as it will go. The liquid should simmer very gently but not boil.

4. After 2-3 hours, add peeled sliced carrots. Turn the meat, which will have released lots of liquid. Simmer one more hour or until meat is fork tender and stir in a cup of chopped parsley. Serve over potatoes or noodles.

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