Friday, October 15, 2010

Really Good Classic Pot Roast

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This is the time of year when I really enjoy being in the kitchen. Granted, I love being in the kitchen  all year round but there's something about the fall season when cooking in the kitchen just feels really good. Perhaps its partially due to all the comforting dishes I tend to make during the brisk season. One such dish that I tend to make is a pot roast. There are so many different recipes on how to prepare it that I enjoy testing new ones every year in hopes of finding something new, interesting or challenging. This time, I tried this Really Good Pot Roast recipe with a sauce made with roasted vegetables...

Most recipes for pot roast I've made called for the use of a slow cooker. I've made a few versions this way, all of them pretty tasty. They start out with browning the meat then placing it on a bed of vegetables where it cooks for hours until tender. In the process, a rich sauce or gravy is made from the accumulated juices while the roast is slow cooked. To thicken this gravy, a touch of cornstarch or flour is added with some broth, if needed.


This recipe is quite different where it starts out on the stovetop to sauté the vegetables briefly. Broth, red wine, tomato paste, and aromatics join the vegetables. The meat is seasoned and then placed directly on the sautéed vegetables without browning. A piece of foil covers the pot before topping off with the lid. The whole thing is then placed in an oven to bake for 3-4 hours. But what really drew me towards this recipe was how the gravy was made.

After the roast has been in the oven for hours, it's removed and set aside. The liquid from the pot is then strained and skimmed of fat. This liquid goes back into the pot along with the strained vegetables where it's blended using an immersion blender. All the cooked down onions, carrots and celery is pureed every so smoothly to create a really good gravy to naturally accompany a Really Good Pot Roast. Never mind the fact that the gravy is further flavored with chopped fresh thyme, more red wine and balsamic vinegar to give it an extra punch. It's an interesting technique and one I enjoyed using my immersion blender for.

Alternately, you could blend the gravy in a blender per the original recipe from Cooks Illustrated but I didn't want to lug my blender out of the depths of my cupboard. Besides, this recipe gave me a reason to use my immersion blender for something other than smoothies and soups!

Classic Pot Roast
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1 (3.5-4lb) boneless chuck eye roast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, sliced thin
1 cup baby carrots
1 celery rib, chopped medium
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth, plus 1-2 cups for sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Prep the roast by pulling the roast into two pieces at its natural seam and trim the roast by removing any large knobs of fat. Sprinkle the pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon of salt and place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat butter in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onions and cook until softened and they begin to brown. Add the carrots and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in 1 cup of beef broth, 1/2 cup of wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme spring; bring to a simmer.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels after it sat out for an hour. Season the roast generously with pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Nestle the meat on top of the sautéed vegetables. Cover the pot tightly with a large piece of foil and cover with the lid; transfer the pot into the preheated oven. Cook beef until fully tender and when a sharp knife easily slips in and out of the meat; about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.

Transfer the roasts to a serving platter and tent loosely with a piece of foil. With the remaining sauce, strain the liquid through a mesh strainer and into a 4 cup liquid measuring cup. Allow the liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim any fat off the surface. Add beef broth to the strained liquid as necessary to bring the liquid amount to 3 cups. Place the liquid back into the same cooking pot (which does not need to be cleaned).

Of the strained vegetables, discard the bay leaf and thyme spring. Place the remaining vegetables back into the same cooking pot with the strained liquid.

Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer the vegetables back into the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables and liquid in the pot until smooth. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in thyme, remaining 1/4 cup wine, and balsamic vinegar into the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of the sauce over the plated roast and serve the roast with extra sauce on the side.

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