Spot On December 9, 2008Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food.
Pot roast, that is. But first, a quick ag lesson.
If you’re familiar with beef and dairy cattle, feel free to skip ahead.
When I was a teenager, we had a young female cow – a heifer. She was of the Hereford persuasion, a breed of beef cattle. Herefords, unlike their more famous cousins, Black Angus, are brown with a distinctive white face. My parents, ever wise, hedged their bets and had her bred with a Holstein (milk cow) bull. The thinking was that if it’s a female, she would be decent for milking, and if a male, well, Herefords are, after all, beef cattle. . .
So along came Spot. Remember that this was a small family farm, and I, as a young teenager, was the oldest – that means there were three kids younger than I. And we had recently moved from the suburbs of Milwaukee. Animals that shared your home – or even your yard – were pets. And pets had names. Enter Spot.
Unfortunately, Spot was born a bull. Which, in the farming community, means, first off, he wasn’t a bull for long.
Then Spot became a steer. Then, sadly, he was dinner.
Spot burgers. Spot roast.
Did I mention I had two younger brothers? There is nothing worse for lame jokes than little brothers.
Pot roast. Yummmmm. . . .what’s better than a slow-cooked hunk of beef, beef you’ve never met, mind you, with a side of potatoes and carrots? And gravy. Not that you need gravy – but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
So the first thing you’re going to want to do is to get a good hunk of beef. I like chuck roast for this – about 3 pounds, I guess. A good sized chunk, a couple of inches thick, anyway. First, you’re going to want to pat it dry with a couple of paper towels. Yeah, I know it might seem a bit silly, but it really does make a difference.
Patting the meat dry helps promote a good sear when you brown the meat, which you’re going to do, and a good sear makes for a better flavor overall.
Or, in other words, you’ll thank me later.
So next, you’ll want to season the beef – just a little salt and pepper is all, and brown it well in a lightly oiled pan – preferably the pan you’ll be ultimately cooking it in.
If you’re cooking the coast in a pressure cooker, like I do, then use that. If you’re not, you’ll want to roast it in the oven, and you’ll want to use a Dutch oven or other coverable roasting pan that’s safe on the stovetop, too. Not Corningware.
If you absolutely must use Corningware to cook your pot roast, well, you’ll have to brown it in something else, that’s all.
So get it good and browned on all sides. Once it’s well-browned, add some aromatics.
I like to use maybe a small onion and a stalk rib of celery, each diced fairly small.
Just add those to the pot, with a tiny bit more oil – but only if you need it, which you probably will. Brown the onions et al along with the meat.
A couple (maybe 3 or 4) potatoes – whatever your preference. We usually use russets (baking potatoes), but this time we had a bunch of little red potatoes. They work just fine.
Add some carrots – again, whatever you like. I will often just throw in a pound of baby carrots, but lately, we’ve been buying full-sized carrots at the market, so I peeled and cut up a couple of big carrots. I also had half a celeriac left from our last trip the the market, and I figured that wouldn’t hurt anything. . . and I was right.
Since we used the pressure cooker for this pot roast, we just dumped the veggies into the basket that sits on top of the meat. When we use the oven (and, to be honest, I haven’t cooked pot roast in the oven in, um, well, let’s see. . . OK, I don’t actually remember how long it’s been), I just used to nestle the vegetables along the sides of the meat in the roasting pan. Either way.
Now, at this point, I season everything. I often simply sprinkle a packet of onion soup mix over the veggies, unless I forget or don’t have it on hand. I think that’s about the only thing I actually use onion soup mix for anymore. So if you have the mix, by all means, use it. If not, just liberally salt and pepper the veggies.
Then dump about ½ cup of red wine over (if you’ve got it available) then a couple of cups of beef stock.
Note well: it’s very important to pour the red wine first, then the stock. Otherwise the wine will stain your potatoes purple.
I mean, if you like that sort of thing, that’s fine. I don’t, though.
However you’re going to cook your roast, you’re going to need to cover tightly, whether it’s a pressure cooker or in the oven.
Probably you could do this on the stovetop, too, but I never have.
If you’re using the pressure cooker (I can’t recommend this enough!) you’re going to bring the cooker up to pressure and cook on “high” for about 40 minutes.
If you’re cooking in the oven (wonderful for a weekend project), you’re going to want to cook at, well, let’s call it 325°, for about 3 hours. Seriously. Figure about how long you’d expect it to take to cook the meat, then add another hour. For real.
Once the meat is spoon-tender, if you want gravy, pull it and the vegetables out of the pan, and cover them with foil and let rest. Meanwhile, you’ll want to start a roux in a separate sauce pan and skim as much fat off the pot roast juices as you can.
We actually used the stick blender and completely pulverized the juice-onion-celery that was in the pot. Once you get your roux ready (equal parts – about 2 to 3 Tablespoons each – of flour and butter), you can gradually pour the cooking liquid into the saucepan and thicken it into a gravy. Season as necessary, which probably won’t be much.
And just enjoy a hearty, wintry supper. And any leftovers make awesome lunches, in case you were wondering.