Monday, March 5, 2012

The World’s Smallest Pot Roast with Winter's Last Roots

Last week, on my run to the grocery store, in addition to that rotisserie chicken, I also had pot roast in mind.  There was a rutabaga, a celery root and carrots left in my root drawer (yeah, I actually have a cool root drawer) and since winter is waning, it was time to bid them adieu. What I found was that the organic, grass-fed beef chuck roasts at Wegman’s were the SMALLEST roasts I have ever seen. Even the ones at Whole Foods are cut larger than that. Nothing over two pounds. A two pound pot roast? I realize that it’ll take a mortgage to buy a four pound grass fed roast, but, really?  It’s worth it though; there is nothing more delectable than grass fed beef.

So I bought two, and was going to tie them together into a decent roast. I had been planning to get six meal-sized servings, plus a couple of lunches out of this piece of meat and a two pounder won’t do. An unexpected dinner invitation arrived for last night, so one “roast” –I need the quotes as I have trouble calling a 2-pound chuck steak a “roast”, went into the freezer. And I cooked the smallest pot roast in the world. With all the end of winter root vegetables left in the drawer.

Ranting aside, this is a really luscious pot roast recipe, rich and deeply flavored.  It’s also categorically primal, and gluten free if you care about such things. If you don’t, it’s a still great way to show old man winter the door.

Little Beef Pot Roast with End of Winter Roots

Serves 4

3 strips of bacon
2 tsp. safflower oil
2lb (or larger) beef chuck roast, grass fed if poss.
Salt and coarse ground black pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1-1/2 cup sliced yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic, rough cut
1 tsp. anchovy paste
½ tsp. mushroom base (opt.)
1 T tomato paste
Dash of Pickapeppa or Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon each: dry marjoram and thyme
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled, in 2” chunks

Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a 5 quart or larger Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat, and add the bacon. Render the bacon fat, and when the bacon is crisp, remove and set aside. Raise the heat to medium high.  Dry the chuck roast, salt and pepper both sides liberally, and brown it well, about 7 minutes a side. Remove the beef from the pan, set aside on a plate.

Add the mushrooms, onions and garlic, and cook until the onions soften. Add the tomato paste, anchovy paste, mushroom base (opt.) and the Pickapeppa. Stir into the onion mixture and cook for a few seconds. Add the water and wine and stir well, bring to a simmer. Crumble in the bacon, and add the bay leaves, thyme and marjoram. Stir in the root vegetables, and last nestle the meat back in the pot so the cooking liquid comes about half way up the meat. Remember to add any meat juices that collected on the plate.

Cover the Dutch oven and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, turning the meat over once at the half-way point. The meat will fall into chunks, and serve with the vegetables. I serve this as is, but a grain, mashed potatoes or a white bean puree would be nice, as would some roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts along side.

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