Pot roasting

POT ROASTING OR BRAISING: THE CONCEPT

Pot roasting has two stages: a sear and then a long, low temperature cook with a little liquid and vegetables until the meat is tender.  Pot roasting (also known as braising) is ideal for cuts that have lots of flavorful connective tissue and need longer, slower cooking times.  With the liquid we try to achieve a broth evocative of the meat, with sparing use of flavoring agents.

 

Examples of braising cuts are boneless chuck, shanks (sometimes known as osso buco, if it's veal), short ribs, top or bottom round or brisket. Braising uses highly flavorful, yet less expensive, cuts, and produces great, rich flavor and tender meat through long slow cooking. For economy of effort we often braise large amounts at a time because any leftovers are superb later on their own or combined with pasta, potatoes, etc.

 

General braising instructions

This method is valid for most braising meats.

 

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (F). Pat the meat dry and heat a little olive oil and/or butter in a Dutch oven at medium-high temperature; sear the meat in one layer (in batches if necessary; crowding it will make it steam which isn't what you want) to brown it on all sides for a few minutes to enhance its flavor.  Remove the meat and briefly sauté vegetables (carrot, onion, celery) and any herbs you are using. Deglaze the pot with a small amount of liquid (such as wine, water, stock, maybe a little flavoring agent – brandy, balsamic vinegar, shoyu) and simmer gently for a few minutes. Turn off heat and put the meat back in the pot.

Put in the oven at 300(F) for an hour.  Then reduce the heat to 250(F) and cook for 3 hours.  After 2 hours at 250F, test the meat for doneness by pulling at it with a fork. Don’t do this often as it reduces heat and delays cooking. While it can be done on the stovetop we find it easier to maintain the requisite low heat in the oven.  Don’t let the liquid boil (that will toughen the meat); the surface of the liquid should just bubble very gently. 

THE RECIPES

 

BEEF CARBONNADE

Best for: stew meat; top or bottom round.  Serves 4.

This is a Flemish recipe, adapted from Katie Stewart, The Times Cookery Book.  Delicious for winter.  Leftovers make a great sauce for pasta. 

 

Ingredients

4 onions, finely sliced

8 oz mushrooms, quartered

2oz butter

2 lb stewing beef (or use top or bottom round, cut into large 2” chunks)

1 T flour

1 pint light ale (or Guinness or another stout beer for a richer flavour)

Slices of French bread and French mustard to finish (optional)

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan.  Add onions and fry gently until soft (15 mins).

Melt remaining butter in a heavy ovenproof casserole dish (Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.  Brown meat on all sides (it should sizzle when you add it to the pan), 3-4 minutes or so.  You might need to do this in two batches.

When the meat is browned, sprinkle it with flour, stir and season with salt and pepper. 

Add the cooked onions and the chopped mushrooms.

Add the ale and bring to a simmer, stirring well.

Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and cook in centre of slow oven (300 F) for 3 hours. Take out every hour or so and make sure it is at a very gentle simmer (surface of the gravy just moving).  If bubbling vigorously, turn oven down another 10F.  Add a little water if it seems to be drying out.

 

Optional finish: About 45 mins before end of cooking time, place a few slices of French bread spread with French mustard on top of the meat.  Put in as many slices, mustard-side up, as space allows.  Push the bread down into the meat gravy; the pieces will rise again to the surface.  Replace the casserole in the oven without the lid, so the bread becomes crisp and golden brown.  Complete the cooking time.

 
 

SLOW-COOKER POT ROAST WITH RED WINE

Inspired by Shannon Hayes, “Cooking Grass-fed Beef”, this is similar to the simple pot roast above, but done in an electric slow cooker (quantities below are for a 6 quart slow cooker). 

Best for: chuck roast, brisket, stew meat.  Serves 6-8

 

Ingredients

1 (3-5 lb) beef pot roast, bone-in or boneless (chuck roast or brisket is ideal) OR 3lb stew meat in 2” pieces

2oz butter

2 large onions, finely sliced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large leek, thinly sliced (white & pale green parts)

1 cup red wine

2 large sprigs of thyme

Strip of orange zest

Method

Wipe roast with paper towel and grind salt over both sides.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat and brown the meat on all sides.  (You want it hot enough to become a nice dark brown in spots – probably 2-3 minutes each side).  Transfer meat to slow cooker.

 

(If using stew meat, brown the pieces on all sides as described above, then transfer to the slow cooker.)

 

Add onions to skillet and fry 10 minutes until translucent (if short of time, skip this step and add onions raw to slow cooker).

 

Deglaze skillet with red wine and bubble for a minute or so, then pour over meat in slow cooker.  Add a cup of water, carrots, leek, thyme and orange zest.  Then follow your slow cooker's instructions to cook until tender (mine takes at least 8 hours on "low").

SIMPLE POT ROAST

Ingredients

3-4 lb pot roast (eg top sirloin, bottom or top round, chuck roast)

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 anchovies, cut into 4-5 pieces each (optional)

2 onions, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

2 sticks celery, sliced

1 bayleaf

1 T dried thyme (or fresh from 3-4 stalks)

1 cup red wine

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Wipe roast with paper towel.  Using a small sharp knife, make small slits in the meat and push the garlic slices and anchovy pieces into them (so the flavor penetrates).  Salt the meat generously.

Brown the roast in a little oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until brown on all sides (5-6 minutes).

Add onions, carrots and celery.  Saute another 5 minutes until onion starts to become translucent.

Add herbs, grind over some more salt and pepper, and add 1 cup of wine (or water).  Bring to gentle simmer on stovetop and transfer to oven.

Cook at 300F for one hour, then reduce to 250F for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Check occasionally to make sure it's not bubbling too vigorously; gentle heat is what's needed to keep the meat tender.

Slice potroast and serve with mashed potatoes.

BRAISED BEEF SHANKS WITH WHITE WINE

 

Serves 3-4

 

Ingredients

3 lbs beef shanks (cross-cut, bone-in)

2 T olive oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 ½ cups white wine (use red or rosé if you don’t have white)

1 ½ cups of beef or vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have stock)

1 bay leaf

Gremolata (optional, a finishing touch):

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1 large clove garlic, minced

(To make gremolata, simply chop all ingredients finely together, then sprinkle on top of cooked shanks.)

Method

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Season shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the shanks on both sides.  (You want it hot enough to become a nice dark brown in spots – 5 minutes each side).  Remove meat and set aside.

Reduce heat slightly and sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery over medium heat in Dutch oven until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are softening – don’t let them brown.  Raise heat, deglaze pan with wine and simmer until reduced by one third.  Add the stock or water and bring to a gentle simmer with the liquid just bubbling. Return the meat to the pot, cover the pot and put in the preheated oven for 3 hours. 

 

Check occasionally to make sure the liquid is at a gentle simmer, ie occasional bubbles rising.  If it begins to dry out, add liquid. After 3 hours the beef should be very tender and easily removed from the bones.

There are many ways to serve this. Either serve one shank per person with sauce – good with mashed potato or polenta – or pull meat apart, mix the sauce with pasta and serve meat on top. Sprinkle the shanks with gremolata on serving.

 
 

GRILLADE DES MARINIERS

My recipe notes say this is from Elizabeth David via Simon Hopkinson.  The carrots are my addition - perhaps not readily obtainable by the Rhone bargemen after whom this simple dish is named.  The final step - stirring in an aromatic parsley/garlic/anchovy mixture - gives it character.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

2lbs thickly sliced sirloin steak or a 2-3 lb piece of boneless chuck (English recipes call for rump steak, which is the equivalent of American sirloin, but well marbled boneless chuck works well too)

3 large onions

3 large carrots (optional)

Parsley, garlic and anchovies

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Slice onions thinly and strew half in a well-buttered lidded casserole dish/Dutch oven, Le Creuset or similar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Salt beef generously and lay on top of onions.

Cover beef with sliced carrots and rest of onions.  Season again.  Add bay leaf.

Cut sheet of parchment (baking/greaseproof) paper to fit the pot with a slight overhang.  Smear paper with butter and tuck it in around the onions, buttered side down.  (The idea is to reduce room for evaporation and encourage everything to stew in its own juices.)

Cover the pot, then put it over a moderate flame on the stovetop until you hear a definite sizzle.  Then into the oven for an hour.  Turn down to 275F and leave another hour.

Meanwhile, blend in food processor: handful of parsley, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 T red wine vinegar, 4 T olive oil and 1 anchovy fillet (and 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes if you like heat).

Remove pot from oven and check meat is tender (cook another half hour if not).  Stir herb paste in very gently.  Replace the lid, turn oven off and leave pot in oven for 20 minutes to allow flavors to infuse.

Serve with baked or mashed potatoes.

 

BRAISED SHORT RIBS

I like to braise the ribs a day or two in advance, remove the meat from the bones and leave the meat and sauce in the fridge; then serve over mashed potatoes, pasta or soft polenta.  As with most braises, the ingredients are variable but onion and carrot are essential.  If you have lots of liquid at the end, take a cup out before you serve - it's a good basis for a (separate) pasta sauce, eg with mushrooms.

Ingredients

4-5 lbs of bone-in short ribs

2 large onions, chopped (or 3 medium)

4 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 large carrots, sliced

2-3 ribs of celery, sliced (if you have them)

1 T minced thyme, preferably fresh

1 cup red wine

1 cup water

Method

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Salt and pepper the ribs generously.  Brown them in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 or 6 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Add another 1T olive oil and over low-medium heat, saute the onions and garlic until translucent (5-10 minutes).  Add carrots and celery and cook another 5 minutes.

Return ribs to the pot.  Add the wine, water and thyme and bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop.

Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.  Cook for one hour at 300F, then turn down to 250F for about 3 to 4 hours or until ribs are tender.  (Cooking times vary but allow 4 hours.)  Check for salt after an hour and add more if needed.