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Robin Garr

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RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 01, 2007 1:59 am

Beef pot roast

As winter, we hope, starts winding down toward spring in this part of the world, I'm still trying to get in a few more hearty cold-weather dishes before the flowers blossom and the trees start to bud.

One such favorite is beef pot roast, a dish that stands at the other end of the sophistication spectrum from tenderloin or standing rib, but one that can bring plenty of pleasure in its own right. Made from tougher cuts that can range from shoulder to rump, it's usually braised - simmered long and slow in a closed pot with aromatic liquids.

This time-consuming process may sacrifice the hot-pink pleasures of medium-rare beef, but it more than makes up for that in flavor, both from the beef itself - tough cuts tend to be more intensely flavored than the more tender, expensive and sought-after rib cuts and tenderloins - and from the braising liquids that infuse the meat with aromatics during the long, closed braising period.

The basic principle of pot roasting is so simple that it hardly requires a recipe: Brown a chunk of beef in a little oil, flavored if you wish with salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Pop it into a dutch oven or other heavy, ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid with a small amount of liquid, and cook at low temperature for a long time. During cooking, add vegetables if you like. That's pretty much the whole story, and you can even skip the browning step if you want to save a few calories, although you'll make some sacrifice in color and flavor.

I focused on the braising liquid in a pot roast the other day, fine-tuning it with a few non-traditional ingredients in almost homeopathic doses (tomato paste and soy sauce, to add richness and a touch of <i>umami</i>, the Japanese "fifth flavor;" and a dash of hot sauce just to liven things up a bit), and thought the result was exceptionally fine. I'll outline the process below, with the strong caveat that you're welcome to follow my exact proportions, but you'll likely achieve just as much success if you modify it with changes to suit your taste. In short, it's an easily altered and very forgiving recipe.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2-4 pound (about 1 to 2 kilos) beef chuck or shoulder roast.
Salt
Black pepper
3 or 4 garlic cloves
2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon good-quality hot sauce (Cholula Mexican, Sriracha Vietnamese or Indonesian sambal oelek, for example)
1 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
1 medium or 2 small baking potatoes
2 carrots
1 medium-size sweet onion

PROCEDURE:

1. Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Generously season the beef with salt and pepper. Peel and smash the garlic cloves and put them in the dutch oven with the olive oil. Cook over high heat until the garlic sizzles. Put in the beef, sear quickly on all sides, then reduce heat to medium-high and continue cooking, turning the meat often, until it's well browned.

2. When the meat is nicely browned, pour off a little of the accumulated beef fat and olive oil in the pan, if you're concerned about calories; then turn heat back to high and pour in the red wine, turning the meat once or twice and scraping the bottom of the pan to pick up any browned bits, until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy glaze.

3. While the meat is browning, mix together the beef broth, tomato paste, soy sauce and hot sauce. After you've reduced the red wine, turn heat to low and pour in this liquid, adding a little water if necessary so the level of liquid comes about halfway up the sides of the meat. Break the celery stalk in half and put the pieces in; add the bay leaf. Cover and place in the preheated oven and cook for a total of about two hours, turning the meat every half-hour or so.

4. While the meat simmers, peel the baking potatoes and the carrots. Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and the carrots into thick "coins." Put them in a saucepan with lightly salted water to cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until they're crisp-tender. Peel the onion and cut it in half across its equator; cut each half into six or eight wedges. When you estimate that the meat has about 45 minutes to go, drain the potatoes and carrots and add them to the simmering liquid; put in the onion chunks.

5. Continue cooking the meat with the vegetables. For the last 30 minutes or so, particularly if there seems to be a lot of liquid in the pan, set the lid askew and turn the oven up to 375F (190C) so it will reduce a bit. (Keep an eye on it, though, and make sure it doesn't dry out.)

6. At the end of cooking, remove the beef from the liquid and carve it into thick slices. It should be almost falling-apart tender. I lift out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and serve them separately in a warm bowl, with the possible exception of the celery, which may be so cooked down that it needs to be discarded. You can put some of the liquid in a gravy boat or just use it as a light <i>jus</i> on the meat platter.

<B>MATCHING WINE:</B> Red wine with beef, of course, and just about any red would do, although I like to turn to "comfort wines" from Northern Italy or Southern France. This time around, it was a delight with the Languedoc red blend featured in the Feb. 28 <i>30 Second Wine Advisor</i>, <b>Domaine d'Aupilhac 2004 Coteaux du Languedoc</b>.

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Eric Ifune

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Eric Ifune » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Along with home pan fryed chicken, my favorite dish. I generally use beef broth and a healthy dash of red wine.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Gary Barlettano » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:15 pm

My mother was a really great cook. She never took shortcuts and shied away from anything packaged or premade etc.

But ...

The secret ingredient in her pot roast was a healthy squirt of catsup!! You use tomato product in yours. Try substituting about 1/4 cup of catsup in its place.
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Maria Samms

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Maria Samms » Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:21 pm

Thanks Robin! I could go for a good stew.

I usually add a healthy dose of red wine myself...and instead of soy, I will most often add a few dashes of worchestershire sauce.

Hmmmm...ketchup! I will give it a go instead of my tomato paste Gary. Mama Barlettano couldn't have been wrong.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Gary Barlettano » Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:30 pm

Maria Samms wrote:Hmmmm...ketchup! I will give it a go instead of my tomato paste Gary. Mama Barlettano couldn't have been wrong.


Nonni Barlettano will bless you from afar. You're such a good girl, Maria! :D The catsup does sweeten things up a bit and I'll probably forget the wine in this case.

Two bonus points if you know the Italian word for catsup.
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Ian Sutton

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Ian Sutton » Fri Mar 02, 2007 5:30 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:
Two bonus points if you know the Italian word for catsup.

Beware... trick question 8)
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Maria Samms

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Maria Samms » Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:12 pm

Two bonus points if you know the Italian word for catsup.


I do feel a bad pun coming here...

I believe it's ketchup in Italian (which is how I say catsup in English as well...)

Let's hear it Mr. Linguist.
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Bob Ross

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Bob Ross » Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:27 pm

BableFish has the same answer, Maria.

"Catsup" in English = "Ketchup" in Italian.

"Ketchup" in Italian = "Ketchup" in Italian.

None of my Italian cookbooks mention Ketchup, except The Silver Spoon has a recipe for "Uova Alla Coque con Ketchup", which it translates as "Eggs with Ketchup." Pretty simple: 4 eggs, 4 teaspoons of ketchup, sesame-seed bread sticks, salt. You can cook the eggs according to taste, then mix the eggs and the ketchup using a spoon or the bread sticks.

I share your anticipation for the other shoe.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:52 pm

Maria, Bob,

OK, it was a little curve ball with a smirk, but there is no "other shoe." I think Freud (Ernie from Hoboken not Sigmund from Austria) once said that sometimes a translation is just a translation. What is interesting, however, is that the Italians have chosen the spelling with the "k" which is not native to the Italian alphabet.

Regards,
Gary
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Maria Samms

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Maria Samms » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:05 pm

Interesting...that is strange that they would use a K when it's not native to their alphabet.

I am kinda sad there was no bad pun though...LOL!
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Beef pot roast

by Bob Ross » Sat Mar 03, 2007 9:25 pm

Maria, we both were waiting for the pun -- but after Gary came clean, that missing pun kept gnawing at me. I finally remembered what was struggling to get out of my memory, a political joke from 1968, by a Midwesterner, where "catsup" is preferred to "ketchup" in my experience:

Hubert Humphrey gave a personal interest interview: "My favorite sandwich is peanut butter, baloney, cheddar cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise on toasted bread with catsup on the side."

We were mourning the election results, and a buddy came up with: "No wonder he couldn't ketchup with Nixon."

:(

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