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Mediterranean-Style Pot Roast

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Serves six to eight.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 74

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 wide strips orange zest
  • 1 4-lb. boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5 oz. thick-sliced (1/4 inch) pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch squares (to yield 1 cup)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery, with leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 14-1/2-oz. can peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juices, plus enough chicken or beef broth to total 3 cups
  • 2 cups peeled and diced red or fingerling potatoes (3/4-inch chunks)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced carrots (3/4-inch chunks
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions (don't thaw)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Brown the meat and aromatics:

Set a rack on the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F. Select a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Cut a large single-layer square of cheesecloth, and rinse it to remove any loose fibers. Spread the cheesecloth flat and pile the garlic, oregano, cinnamon stick, chile flakes, and orange zest in the center. Gather the edges to form a pouch and tie tightly with kitchen twine. Set aside. Tie the roast into a snug shape with twine, pat it dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. In the Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat thoroughly on all sides, turning with tongs, about 5 minutes per side. The meat should sizzle but not scorch; adjust the heat accordingly. Transfer the meat to a large plate.

Lower the heat to medium, add the pancetta, and cook until just browned and beginning to crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to the plate with the beef. Spoon 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pan into a small dish and discard the rest.

Evaluate the drippings on the bottom of the pot. They may be very dark, almost black, but if there are any scorched bits, wipe these out with a wadded paper towel (if in doubt, taste a fleck; as long as it doesn't taste acrid, it's fine). Return the pot to medium heat and add the 2 Tbs. reserved fat. Add the finely chopped onions, celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Deglaze and braise:
Tip:

If your pot doesn't have a tight lid, cover the pot tightly with heavy-duty foil, crimping it well over the edges.

Add the red-wine vinegar, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any remaining drippings on the bottom of the pot if necessary. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbs.

Add the tomatoes, beef or chicken broth, and the cheesecloth pouch of flavorings to the pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer. There should be at least 1 inch of liquid in the pot. Add more broth if needed. Return the meat to the pot, along with the pancetta and any juices that have accumulated. Return the liquid to a simmer, and cover the pot with a sheet of parchment, pushing down so the paper touches the meat. Set the lid in place. Slide the pot into the oven and cook for 2 hours, turning the roast with tongs after 1 hour.

Turn the roast over once more and then scatter the diced potatoes, carrots and pearl onions into the liquid around the roast. Continue braising, covered with the parchment and the lid, until the meat is fork-tender, about an hour longer. Test for doneness by spearing the meat toward the center with a carving fork. Pull out the fork carefully: If it lifts the meat along with it, continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Make a sauce from the braising liquid:
Tip:

Chuck roast comprises several different muscles, so you may want to pull apart the various pieces with your hands before carving, then slice each piece across its grain.

Transfer the pot roast and vegetables to a shallow platter (don't worry if a few chopped onions or bits of pancetta come along too); tent with foil. Strain the remaining liquid into a measuring cup, discarding the spent onion, and pancetta and the cheesecloth sachet of flavorings. Let the fat rise to the surface and spoon it off. Wipe out the braising pot with a paper towel.

Return the strained juices to the pot  and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Taste and evaluate. If the flavor seems weak, simmer vigorously over medium-high heat to reduce the volume and concentrate the flavor, 5 to 15 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in the chopped parsley.

Snip the strings from the pot roast and carve the meat across the grain into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the meat on a serving platter. Ladle about half the sauce over all, garnish with the vegetables, and serve, passing the remaining sauce at the table.

Make Ahead Tips

Pot roast may be served right away, but like most braises, it tastes even better when made ahead and left to sit for a day or two. Follow the method through the oven-braising, and transfer the meat and vegetables to a platter. Strain and degrease the juices as directed, wipe out the pot, and then return the meat and vegetables to the pot and pour the strained juices over all. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to three days. To serve, gently reheat the roast in the pot until the juices are once again liquified. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a baking dish, moisten with some of the juices, cover, and heat in a 325°F oven until warmed through. While the meat and vegetables are warming, proceed with the recipe as directed to make a sauce from the juices.

Leftovers

Pot roast patties Using cold leftover pot roast that includes potatoes, separate the meat and vegetables as best you can from the gelatinous sauce. Chop up the meat and vegetables, and mix together in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard (which adds flavor and also helps the mixture hold together). Shape into patties and sauté in oil or butter over medium to medium-high heat until crusty and browned on the outside and hot on the inside.

French dip sandwiches Slice baguettes into 5- or 6-inch lengths and then split them almost but not entirely in half lengthwise. (Or use crusty sub rolls.) Heat the leftovers until hot. Slice the meat and arrange in the baguettes. Serve the sandwiches with individual dishes of the sauce on the side for dipping. Hot mustard is a good condiment for these sandwiches, and you can serve the leftover vegetables as a side dish or save them for another meal.

Shepherd’s pie Warm the leftovers just enough to liquefy the sauce. Shred or chop the meat and combine with the vegetables. Add enough sauce to make the mixture taste nicely moist but not super juicy. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and cover with a 1-inch layer of mashed potatoes (flavored with Cheddar or horseradish, if you like). Drizzle the potatoes with a little olive oil and then bake in a 375°F oven until the potatoes are lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings; Calories (kcal): 610; Fat (g): fat g 38; Fat Calories (kcal): 340; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 14; Protein (g): protein g 49; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 16; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 800; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 130; Fiber (g): fiber g 3;

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