Monday, February 29, 2016

Classic Braised Beef (R is for Roast)

Braising can make a spectacular company meal or a hearty family dinner with little culinary skill required. Braising is one of the easiest ways to cook a large cut of meat, and can make a tough cut of meat incredibly tender.  This technique combines both dry and moist heat. On the dry side, the meat is first sautéd in a Dutch oven to help develop a deep flavor. Then a flavorful liquid is added, a lid popped on top, and the moist heat from simmering gently cooks the food. The long, slow cooking allows the flavors of the different ingredients to combine, and turns even the toughest, most inexpensive cut of meat as tender as a filet steak.

There are a lot of steps listed, I know, but this truly is meal is simple to make.  The steps are often quick, but it's important to assemble your dish in an orderly fashion.   The three major steps involved in making this dish:

1. Don’t lose track of time, but you can walk away.

 Once the braise is in the oven, you don’t really need to babysit it. You may want to periodically baste the meat and keep an eye on the time so you don’t forget to add the vegetables, but there’s no need to hover over the stove.

2. Be patient waiting for dinner. 

While the braise cooks, as the aroma will leave your mouth watering and your stomach growling.  Eat a leftover carrot -- you'll feel like you were "good" and deserve extra potatoes.

3. Make sure you use the right amount of liquid.

Too much and your gravy will be thin and you’ll have more work at the end; too little and you won’t have enough gravy to pour over your mashed potatoes!

PS: Don’t worry if you have a smaller family - this is almost better as leftovers! 

Classic Beef Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes - serves 8-12  

Rustic Pot Roast Ingredients
 4 lbs chuck roast (this is the “meat weight” - if your meat has a bone in it, you’ll want a 5-6 pound roast)
2 tbsp canola oil
about ¼ c. each kosher salt and black pepper
1 large onion
5-6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp Tomato paste
½ cup red wine (to deglaze pot) + 1 Tbsp red wine to finish gravy*1
 4 c. beef stock

1 lb carrots
1 lb pearl onions, peeled
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves

 *1 note: If you prefer not to use wine, use an extra 1/2 cup of broth or water plus 1 tbsp or so of lemon juice for finishing.

Mashed Potatoes Ingredients
3 lbs russet potatoes
½ cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1 tub Daiya cream plain cream cheese spread
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder


1.  Peel and mince the onion and garlic cloves. Put each in a small bowl and set aside for later use.

2.  Preheat your oven to 350ºF, as well as a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat.

3.  While your pan is preheating, season your beef with salt and pepper.

4.  Add the canola oil to the hot pan, and watch for the oil to faintly smoke. Immediately, add the beef to the pot. Brown the roast for about 3 minutes on each side.

Once all sides of the beef have been browned, remove the roast from the pan. (You can put it in a bowl so any juices don’t drip, but I just invert the pot lid and place it on there. Why wash another dish?)

5.  Add the diced onion to the pot. Saute the onion until it turns caramelizes (soft, translucent and golden).

6.  Add garlic cloves saute for one minute.

7.  Add tomato paste and stir to combine with other vegetables. Sauté until the bright red of the tomato paste has turned to a darker brick red. (Don’t worry if you have browned bits stuck to the pan. This is called “fond”, and is a good thing.)

8.  Carefully add a ½ cup of red wine to deglaze the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the fond.

9.  Put the meat back in the pot, and add approximately 4 cups beef stock *2, as well as the thyme and bay leaves.

*2 note:  You may need a bit more broth, depending on the size of your pot - you want the liquid to come about halfway up the meat. Don’t skimp if your pot is smaller, because the liquid will concentrate during cooking and you won’t have enough gravy.

10.  Place the lid on your pot, and cook it in the oven for 2 hours. Turn the roast over approximately every half hour.

11.  While the meat is cooking, peel and quarter your potatoes and place in a pot. Add COLD water until it covers the potatoes by about 1 inch.

12.  Prep the pearl onions, and oblique cut the carrots into large (approx. 2 inch) pieces.  Now, you can walk away for about 1 1/2 hours.  Just set a timer so you can come back to flip the roast. If you don't, it's OK, but make sure you set a timer so you don't miss the next step -- or else dinner will be late.

13.  After about 1 ½ hours, add your carrots to the Dutch oven. Turn the potatoes on and bring to a boil. 

14.  After another 15 minutes (the 1 hr 45 min mark from starting), add the pearl onions to the Dutch oven. Stir to submerge them. Check the potatoes - when they are tender (a paring knife slip easily into a chunk), drain into a colander. 

15.  Put the potatoes into a large bowl with the milk and mash. Add the cream cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic, and combine until there are no puddles of milk or lumps of cream cheese. (The potatoes themselves will not be perfectly smooth - remember, this is a rustic meal.)  Transfer to a serving bowl and cover with to keep warm.

16. After the carrots have been in for half an hour, check that they are done.  They should be tender but not mushy when probed with a paring knife.  (If they are really large, they might take a few more minutes.

17.  Remove the pot from oven and place over low heat. 

18.  Remove the beef to a cutting board, and cover to keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions and carrots to a serving bowl and cover as well. 

19.  Turn up the burner to medium heat. Skim off any fat from the liquid, and remove the bay leaves. Bring the braising liquid to a low boil, and simmer until reduced by about half, about 10 minutes - just enough time for your meat to rest.

20.   Add the last tbsp of wine (or lemon juice) to finish the gravy. Carve the beef and serve alongside potatoes and veggies. Ladle gravy over the meat and potatoes. 

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