Monday, October 13, 2014

Pot Roast

Fall is officially here in Chicago! The air is crisp in the morning which breaks way for a warm sunny afternoon and then chills down at night leaving no need for air-conditioning. It's the best weather in my opinion. I've packed away my sandals and shorts, made my boots and sweaters the forefront in my closet, and dusted off my pride and Le Creuset. Okay, it wasn't actually dusty....I've certainly come up with ways of using it this summer! I'll soon share with you my passion for this beauty, but for now, just know, I couldn't cook without it.

So here we are, I'm feeling inspired by fall and decide that it's short rib season. Technically, it will always be short rib season but there's something about it's maddening deliciousness that doesn't scream 85 degree weather (No offense to those living in areas consistently warm and heavenly, I'm sure you enjoy them just fine any day of the year).

So anyways, I head to my local grocery store and pick up almost habitually all of the ingredients I need to make my short ribs. No recipe, just instinct. I even stopped at the wine section and asked the buyer which bottle of wine would pair perfectly with the dish and listed all of the ingredients I planned to use. After getting a sample, I love when that happens, and decide I'm splurging on it, I head to the butcher counter and ask for 3-4 pounds of short ribs. He gave me a forgiving look and explained to me that he was out of them, but that a boneless chuck roast would substitute nicely. I somehow mustered a smile, concealing my rage, and thanked him. "Sure, that's no problem! A chuck roast will do." What?? That's not even comparable! What the heck do you do with a chuck roast? Well, apparently, you make great pot roast.

Yes my story sounds dramatic and to those who've never experienced great short ribs, you have no idea what your missing. But truly, this meal turned out phenomenal and I will be making a chuck roast again, very soon.

As I'm writing this post I'm happy to report that I have since found great looking short ribs and they are sitting anxiously in my freezer. Happy ending isn't it?!

This method I used to cook the chuck roast is almost identical to how I cook my short ribs but I'll post that recipe in due time.
Remove your roast from the fridge about 45 minutes before you plan to cook it (This is pretty standard for any cut of meat to ensure the meat will cook evenly). Take a few paper towels and pat the roast really well to remove excess moisture and season liberally with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, get your pot/dutch oven/whatever you have to go from stove top to oven safely, screaming hot. Add in a little butter and olive oil, equal parts, just enough to coat the pan.

Add the meat and sear for about a minute on each side, until nicely browned. The butter may get a little brown and toasty, no worries. It'll add flavor!
Take the meat out and let it rest on a plate. This is by no means cooked, just taking a breather before the next step.
Now throw in your veggies. I used a few carrots, celery, and a whole small onion, chopped in large chunks. No fancy knife skills required. Sauté over medium high heat for a few minutes until the vegetables start to lose their crunch and the colors start to develop.
Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and add in 2 tbl of tomato paste. Give it a nice stir to "wake up" the canned tomato product. I always remove whatever is left in the can and freeze it in a small Ziploc bag for future use. Otherwise, I stick it in the fridge and forget it's there until its past its prime. 
Now, here's where my favorite part comes in. Open up a bottle of red wine, it doesn't have to be great, but if you wouldn't drink it out of a glass, don't use it. I always pour myself a glass, have a few sips (just to make sure it's okay) and then I add it to the pot. Scrape up all of the delicious bits at the bottom of the pan and stir to combine with the tomato paste. You won't use the whole bottle so feel free to pour yourself another glass when it runs empty. :)
Add some fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary and then slide the meat back in. The wine should come to about 1/4 way up the meat so I finish with about 2 cups of beef broth, just to about 3/4 of the way up the roast. Put the lid on and place the pot in a 375 degree oven for about 2.5-3 hours.

At about 2.5 hours I check the meat by piercing it with a fork. If the meat falls apart without any effort, then it's ready. If its hard to pull apart of shred a piece off, it needs more time. Patience is truly the only thing needed to succeed at a tender chuck roast.
When it's beautifully tender remove it carefully and let it rest on a cutting board. Take 2 forks and just shred it as fine or large as you like. Meanwhile, check your cooking liquid left in the pot. By now a little fat or oil will surface to the top. No biggie, just skim it carefully with a spoon, making sure to not go overboard and lose that fabulous sauce!
Add the meat back to the pot and stir to combine. You'll see evidence of super tender veggies and a rich sauce that seems to coat every piece magically. That's it! Serve over mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, you name it! I served mine with roasted sweet potatoes and green beans for a healthier spin.


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