Sunday, April 3, 2011

Katherine's Pot Roast, Part Two

Earlier this year, my little Sunshine and I had the chance to fly out to Santa Fe and spend a long weekend with Katherine and her family. To thank them for having us, and to make carnivore Mr. Katherine happy, I cooked them up a pot roast and some boiled red potatoes.

Below is, more or less, what I did and how to do this yourself… with some editorial for those that don’t cook much. Since the essence of the recipe is browning some meat and braising it with some vegetables and seasoning, there’s a lot of room for variation. You can vary the type and amounts of the vegetables and the seasonings. For me, what’s key, is having some red wine and tomato in the sauce to round it out and make good gravy.

Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Gravy
Adapted from “Cook’s Country” Magazine

• 1 large boneless beef chuck roast (5-6 pounds)… This should be at least 2 inches high; smaller cuts seem not to cook as well.

• Salt and pepper… You have kosher salt and a pepper grinder, right?

• Garlic, 1-2 cloves, sliced… I made do with jarred, minced garlic and that worked well

• 4 teaspoons oil… Vegetable is preferred, but olive works.

• 3 or 4 medium yellow onions, chopped or sliced

• 1 large celery rib, chopped … Traditional, but optional if no one likes celery

• 4 medium carrots, chopped… I usually add more carrots, and am tempted to mix in some parsnips as well. Try to chop the root vegetables to more or less the same size, bite-sized for an adult.

• 6 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 cup red wine

• 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree

• 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth… You can also just use water.

• 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)

• 3 bay leaves… You can use less if your host’s spice cabinet yields just one.

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme

• Fresh parsley to garnish…which I never, ever seem to have on hand.

1. At least an hour before cooking, slice small divots all over the roast and place slivers of garlic in these small cavities. Liberally season the roast with salt and pepper. You want a healthy teaspoon per side of salt, which is more than you’d ever think you’d need. Place in the fridge until ready to move on to the next step.

[This helps flavor the meat on the inside. I’ve done this up to 12 hours ahead of time. If you feel like it, rub some dried thyme into the meat too. Then again, if you don’t feel like doing much, skip this step. Just be sure to salt and pepper the roast prior to step 2.]

2. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the seasoned roast on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes total cooking time. Transfer roast to slow cooker.

[This is one area where a sturdy pair of spring-loaded tongs is an essential kitchen tool. And, really, with the amount of Food Network chefs selling kitchen lines to Target and such, you should have a Dutch oven by now or at least a good pot with a thick bottom. Should you wish to skip using a slow cooker, this meal can be done in a Dutch oven – lid on – in your oven at about 300 degrees F for at least 3 hours.]

3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to skillet, along with onions. Sprinkle with some salt and gently cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and almost translucent. This can easily take 10 to 15 minutes; lower your heat if they start to turn brown. Transfer onions to the slow cooker.

[Again, the lazy can skip step 3 and just cook the onions along with everything else in step 4. However, caramelized onions really add an extra yumminess to the sauce and, for my friends, I did take this step.]

4. Add celery, carrots (or whatever root vegetables you like) and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

5. Increase heat to high. Add red wine to empty skillet, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth (or water), and bring to a boil. Stir in pepper flakes, bay leaves and thyme. Transfer to slow cooker. If the liquid does not come up to the top edge of the roast, add a little more water.

6. Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 hours. Or, better yet, cook on low for 9 to 10 hours. You can check the temperature with a meat thermometer about 2 hours before the roast is supposed to be done to prevent overcooking. It will be well done at 160 degrees F.

7. Transfer roast to carving board; loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Discard bay leaves. Allow liquid in pot to settle, about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface.

8. To be really fancy about making gravy (and we did not do this in Santa Fe), puree liquids and solids in batches in blender or food processor. Or, use an immersion blender. Stir in some fresh parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a gravy boat and wow your friends.

9. Cut roast into 1/2-inch-thick slices, ladle on some sauce, and serve over the starch of your choosing: buttered egg noodles, boiled potatoes, or mashed potatoes.

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