Written by Chef Alan Zox, Ph.D, email@example.com Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:00
Pot roast is one of those winter delights that warms up the innards and makes us feel so satisfied. Sarah Leah Chase’s cookbook Cold Weather Cooking that I found in my attic recently emphasizes this theme. Her recipes continue to stand the test of time and please us today as they did 40 years ago.
There are different versions of winter cooking in every culture but they all seek to comfort us in fundamental ways. In fact, cold weather seems to evoke some of the most satisfying meals we enjoy. Whether it is meatloaf, split pea soup or mashed potatoes, some foods just please us more than others. Ropa vieja, (the “j” is pronounced like an “h”), which translates into old clothes, is another example of a timeless winter delight. The long cooking method of meat, spices, vegetables and liquid brought to us from Cuba is said to resemble a pile of rags.Braising is a similar method that uses more liquid to help break down muscle and collagen of classic, traditional cuts of meat such as veal or lamb shanks. The flavor is achieved through this method by using crock pots or pressure cookers which results in meals that are extraordinarily delicious, nutritious, time efficient and affordable. Although the cost of food has increased these days, I believe more home cooks than ever before are realizing the value of cooking in this manner.
An old restaurant friend enjoyed braising these fatty cuts of beef and lamb but was always seeking to push the envelope. He discovered that the three step process of marinating the meat, braising it and then smoking it with fruit wood logs achieved another level of flavor.
My combination of techniques in the recipe below uses vegetables, herbs, acids and spices to create my friend’s dish without having to smoke the meat. I love using lemon juice and zest and preserved lemons to achieve special flavors.
Sweet and Sour Pot Roast
Serves 4-6 (2 days to prepare)
¼ cup olive oil
4 lbs. flank steak or chuck roast without bones
2 large carrots peeled and cut on the bias
4 large red potatoes quartered
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large yellow onions, diced
4 large garlic cloves, diced
3 large bay leaves
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 cup red wine, shiraz or Toscana
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
½ cup green olives
¼ cup oil cured black olives
3 tablespoons small capers
¼ cup currants
¼ cup apricots
¼ cup pitted prunes
Juice and zest of one large soft whole lemon
¼ slice of preserved lemon
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Season the flank steak or the chuck roast by sprinkling it all over with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides for 15 minutes. Remove the roast from the pot and set aside on a platter.
2. Sauté the onions and the garlic in the pot until softened—about 10 minutes. Blend in the brown sugar until smooth. Pour in the chicken stock and red wine mixing with the brown sugar. Add the beef broth and red wine, 2 cups cold water, and the olives, capers, dried fruits, lemon zest and juice. Season with marjoram, thyme, tarragon, nutmeg, salt and pepper as needed.
3. Return the seared roast to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, turning the meat occasionally, until it is very tender, adding the remaining 1 cup of water to keep the roast simmering in liquid about ¾ of the way submerged for about 3 hours. Allow to cool at room temperature, and cool overnight enabling you to more efficiently remove the fat in the A.M.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F before serving the next day.
5. Remove the pot roast from the pot and slice thin. Overlap the slices in the pot. Remove the potatoes and the carrots to a side dish. Skin the fat from the sauce and spoon the sauce generously over the meat. Cover the pot and bake until the meat is heated through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with buttered noodles, potatoes and carrots. This is a real keeper that is unusual and wonderfully flavorful.