“There’s no place like home.” Click-click
Nothing will bring an ex-pat back home faster than a desire for the cooking of home. Miriam and Chris have been doing a lot of traveling recently, so I have not done a Sunday dinner in several weeks. This is my variation on a Yankee pot roast.
After I decided that I wanted to do a pot roast I had to adapt it to my diners needs. Son-in-law, Chris, and wife, Jan, are limiting their starch intake, so potatoes are right out of the pot. Jan requested my Guinness Beer Bread as her starch of choice to go with the meat and gravy.
I decided that I wanted mushrooms. Everyone, except Eilene, really likes them. The trick here is to put them in whole, so that Eilene can fish them out. As it is the texture she objects to, I plan to sneak some minced wild mushrooms into the gravy.
Onions and celery are obvious choices. Chris is also avoiding carrots, as having too much sugar, so I decided to add a vegetable that I am fond of leek and, of course, lots of garlic.
Wine seemed too French for a Yankee pot roast, so I decided to use brown ale as the braising liquid. I decided to add some tomato paste and just a touch of anchovy paste. Not enough to taste tomato-y or fishy, just enough to boost the umami.
After Dinner Note: “This pot roast would being an American home.”
Karl’s Yankee Come Home Pot Roast
1 Tbs. dried wild mushrooms (about ¼ cup reconstituted)
3-5 Tbs. butter (or olive oil), separate uses
3½ lb. beef chuck roast
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Pinch Kosher salt
1 lb. Crimini mushrooms, wiped and stemmed
1 leek, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tsp. fresh thyme (1 Tbs. dried)
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. anchovy paste
2 cups brown ale
1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in ¼ cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and mince finely. Pour the soaking liquid into a small bowl, leaving any debris behind and add the minced mushrooms back to the liquid, reserve.
2. Add one tablespoon of butter to a large Dutch oven. When the butter stops foaming, brown the meat on both sides and transfer it to a plate.
Tip: According to Cook’s Illustrated you do not need to pre-brown the meat if you are braising and the meat is not going to be completely submerged. The exposed meat will brown on its own during the long cooking time. They say it is almost as good as pre-browning in creating the Maillard reaction, the source of the complex flavor of a good beef dish.
3. Add the rest of the rest of the butter, a pinch of salt and sauté the onions for five minutes.
Tip: The salt helps release the moisture in the onions and lets them brown faster.
4. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are picking up some browning on a few sides.
Tip: You are not trying to cook them completely, just enhancing the mushroom flavor. If you have less picky eaters than I do you may coarsely slice the mushrooms.
Note: I originally planned to sauté the mushrooms first, but the Dutch oven left so much space between the mushrooms that the butter burned. If you slice the mushrooms you will not have this problem. Sauté them first and then remove to the meat plate when done.
5. Add the leeks and celery and continue sautéing for another ten minutes, until the vegetables are starting to get well colored.
6. Pull the vegetables to the side of the pot to create a hole. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. If necessary add a bit of butter. Stir the garlic into the vegetables.
7. Stir in the minced mushrooms, pepper, thyme, tomato paste and anchovy paste.
8. Stir in the ale and then place the meat on top so that it is not submerged.
Tip: Ideally you want the top half of the meat exposed to the hot air of the cooking pot.
9. Cover the Dutch oven with a sheet of foil and put the lid on.
Tip: The foil makes a tighter seal between the pot and the lid and prevents the steam from escaping the Dutch oven. The secret to a tender pot roast is not how much moisture you keep in the meat, but how much you keep in the pot. Steam heat breaks down the collagen and fat better than dry heat. It is the collage turning into gelatin and the liquid fat that makes a pot roast seem “moist.”
10. Put the Dutch oven in a 300° F for 4 hours. At the two hour mark, remove the Dutch oven and flop the meat over. If the liquid level seems low add more ale, water or beef broth.
Tip: Do not be tempted to “Check” on the pot roast. When you open the foil seal you release all of the steam and greatly slow down the cooking process. As I heard once on a BBQ cook-off show; “If you’re looking, it ain’t cooking.”
11. When done remove the meat to a platter and cover it with the foil from the Dutch oven.
12. Let the contents of the pot settle for 5 minutes and spoon off any excess fat.
Tip: If you have a gravy separator you may spoon a good bit of the broth into it and after letting it settle pour the broth back into the pot, leaving the fat behind.
13. Ladle the pots contents into a blender and process until smooth.
Tip: If it seems too thick, add more ale, water or beef broth.
14. Pour the gravy into a medium pot and cook until it reaches your desired consistency.
Tip: You may use the sauce au jus or add some roux, flour and water, or arrowroot to thicken your gravy, but it probably will not be necessary. The blended vegetables thicken the sauce quite nicely.