Monday, March 9, 2009

Pot Roast

I love my Dutch oven. It's heavy and bulky; it has gravitas. The natural sheen of the cast iron is wonderfully earthy and warm; I think it contributes to the ambiance of any braised or roasted dish.

Yes, my waxing poetic about my cast iron Dutch oven means that I made dinner in it. Pot roast, to be specific. And it was excellent, a little touch of sweetness, a hint of acid, and lots and lots of umami. Carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and onions dancing about the roast like dancers around a May pole. Okay, maybe I got a little carried away with that last one, but my point still stands.

I've had several people ask what kind of beef roast to use in a pot roast. Any thick roast will do, but I have a fondness for London broil. It's not too fatty and the grains of the meat aren't too long. Sirloin, round, or chuck will work as well, but beware of excess fat marbled into the meat.

There are many philosophies of pot roast. Some recipes call for dredging the roast in flour, searing it in the pan, then adding the vegetables and fluids. Others call of plopping all the ingredients into the pan and stuffing it in the oven. Which method I use depends greatly on my mood.

I've made pot roasts using the roast in one piece and I've made pot roasts with the roast cut into chunks. Either method will work; cutting into chunks will cut the cooking time a little.

I cut the vegetables different sizes. The onions are diced, the mushrooms are sliced, the baby carrots are left whole, and the potatoes are cut into bite-sized chunks.

Pot Roast
I will indicate the various options in italics.
1 to 2 pounds of beef (The beef roast can be whole or chunked)
6 to 10 medium potatoes (depending on taste), cut slightly larger than bite-size
1/2 to 3/4 pound of baby carrots, whole
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound of mushrooms
1 large sweet potato/yam (if you use a yam, cut down on the number of carrots or the pot roast will be too sweet)
2 cups of red wine (if you don't want to use wine, use beef or mushroom broth and a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 to 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic (to taste)
1/2 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
water, enough to cover vegetables and meat

Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C).

Heat oil in Dutch oven on the stove top. Add onions and saute until they are translucent. Remove from pan.

Dredge meat in flour and 1/2 of the salt. Brown meat in Dutch oven. Remove and deglaze pan with 1/2 of the wine.

Add meat, vegetables, remaining wine, and seasonings to pan. Add enough water to just cover. Place in oven for at least two hours. The longer the pot roasts cooks, the more tender the meat will be.

Remove from oven. Pull meat out and cut into chunks if the roast was done whole.

The meat was so fork-tender that I almost didn't need to cut it into chunks. The potatoes were soft and silky in texture. I could go on and on about how each element of the pot roast worked, but I'll leave that to you.

For best results, serve with fresh, warm bread, butter, and the remainder of the wine in the bottle.

No comments: