If you read my post from a couple weeks ago regarding my purchase of 50 pounds of apples, it will come as no surprise to you that I am also an impulse buyer when it comes to meat. Whenever I see meat on sale at the grocery store, I can’t help but buy it. Ribeyes, pork loins, and leg of lamb all find their way into my cart if the price is right. At home, I either incorporate my recent purchase into a meal for that week or into the freezer it goes for a future dinner.
This method of selecting meat led me to pick up a 4 pound piece of meat a couple of weeks ago. The price per pound was ridiculously low and the fact that it was a large hunk of red meat meant that it would be a hit with my husband. I pulled it out of the freezer this weekend to defrost and spent much time thinking about how I would prepare it and how delicious it would be. What I did not think too much about was what type of meat I had bought. And when I finally took a minute to look at the label, I realized that I wasn’t working with prime rib, but rather a somewhat less exciting bottom round roast. No wonder it was so cheap!
Fortunately, cheap beef does not equal bad beef. Rather, it just means you have to know how to cook it in order to make it tender, and therefore enjoyable, to eat. Braising is the process by which food is first browned in fat and then covered and cooked with a small amount of liquid for a long time at a low heat. When done correctly, braising can make even the toughest foods, flavorful and tender. In other words, if I wasn’t going to cut up my meat for a stew than a recipe for braising was the obvious choice.
This recipe for braised pot roast makes for a hearty dinner for cold nights. While there are several ingredients, it’s relatively easy to make and can be made 2-3 days ahead and reheated which is helpful on busy weeknights. When browning the meat, make sure to get a nice caramelized sear on it as this is the step in which flavor is really developed. Finally, everyone has an opinion on whether to use expensive or cheap wine when cooking, so I thought I would share mine. I use cheap wine to cook, because I think that the special qualities of a good wine are lost during cooking and I’d much rather drink a nice wine than eat it.
Braised Pot Roast
1 (4-5 lb) bottom round roast or chuck roast
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup less sodium beef broth or homemade beef stock
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots, sliced on the bias
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons brandy
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with their juice
1 sprig of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a rack in the center of the oven.
Pat the beef dry and if there is a lot of fat on your piece of meat, trim some of it off. A little fat left on will add great flavor so don’t try to take it all off. On a small plate, mix together flour, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Dredge the meat in the seasoned flour mixture being sure to coat all sides.
Meanwhile, bring the beef broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the dried shiitake mushrooms to the broth. Allow the mushrooms to soak in the beef broth for at least fifteen minutes.
In a large oven-safe Dutch oven, heat the two tablespoons of oil over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, add the meat and allow it to brown on each side. This is a very important step as the browning of the meat will add a lot of flavor to your dish. It should take about 15 minutes to brown the entire piece of meat.
Once browned, remove the meat from the Dutch oven and set aside. Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the Dutch oven and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the shiitake mushrooms from the beef broth. Cut the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms into slices and add the sliced mushrooms and garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook for 1 more minute. Add the beef broth to the Dutch oven and using a wooden spoon scrape up any fond on the bottom of the pot.*
Add the wine and the brandy to the pot and bring back to a boil. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Using the back of a wooden spoon break the tomatoes into smaller pieces.
Add your roast to the pan and nestle it into place. The liquid should come about two-thirds of the way up the side of your meat in order to braise properly. Using kitchen twine, tie together the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Add that to the pot and bring everything back to a boil.
Once the liquid is boiling, cover the Dutch oven and move it to the oven. Allow the roast to cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the meat and then cook for another 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Using tongs, carefully remove the meat from the pot and place, covered with foil, on a cutting board while you prepare the sauce.
If there is a lot of fat on top of the cooking liquid, skim it off and discard it. Take the remaining cooking liquid and vegetables and pour a small amount into a blender or food processor. Blend until almost smooth. Working in small batches, add the remaining liquid and vegetables to the blender or food processor. The blended vegetables will serve to thicken the sauce. Season the sauce to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice the meat thinly and serve with the sauce on top. Enjoy!
* If done properly, when you brown meat on the stove some of the meat will remain attached to the bottom of the pan. Don’t think that you have done something incorrectly. Those little brown, caramelized bits are called fond and as a classmate of mine in culinary school said, “they are the goodies.” The addition of wine, stock, or another liquid to a hot pan allows those bits to be scraped off the bottom of the pan. Once off the pan, they become a delicious and flavorful part of your sauce!