The Pot Roast Bar is Raised

February in the Northeast was way above average this season with many days hovering in the hi-60’s and even 70’s, but March came roaring in like a lion, cold and windy—perfect for a long afternoon braise. And who’s recipe is better to follow than our favorite braising cookbook author, Molly Stevens. She raises the bar for the lowly chuck roast, a humble cut of meat made company-worthy in this Red Wine-Braised Pot Roast recipe.

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All kinds of yummy ingredients meld together in perfect harmony after a long, slow, three-hour braise. The tantalizing aromas will drive you insane with anticipation until you plate the star of the show on the dinner table. In fact, after the roast was removed from the pot, I couldn’t contain myself any longer, I just had to have a taste while the sauce was being made.

The largest chuck roast available at the supermarket was only 2.75 pounds, smaller than the 4-pounder listed, but plenty big for the two of us. As is our custom, I increased the veggie amounts and also added some halved shallots. But just as I voiced out loud to Russ, asking him to help me remember adding the frozen pearl onions when needed, I totally forgot (apparently so did he) until 3 minutes before the pot roast was supposed to be pulled from the oven 😦 So I threw them in, and let everything cook an additional half hour—our stomach’s were really growling by this point.

At the end as you make the sauce, I knew Russ would not be keen on discarding the spent onion, fennel, and pancetta. Instead, we strained the liquid in order to make the “gravy,” but kept those other ingredients, mixing them in with the carrots, pearl onions and celery root. Why would you waste such lusciousnesss? Plus, it would have been almost impossible to separate them.

NOTES: If your pot doesn’t have a tight lid, cover the pot tightly with heavy-duty foil, crimping it well over the edges. Chuck roast comprises several different muscles, so you may want to pull apart the various pieces with your hands before carving, then slice each piece across its grain.

Yes, it is somewhat labor-intensive, but every bit worth it. There is some “make-ahead” directions following the recipe, and like most braises, it tastes even better when made ahead and left to sit for a day or three; so that might be the path to take next time. We were definitely glad there were leftovers!

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 wide strips orange zest
  • 1 4-lb. boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5 oz. thick-sliced (1/4 inch) pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch squares (to yield 1 cup)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or beef broth
  • 2 cups peeled, diced carrots (3/4-inch chunks)
  • 2 cups peeled, diced celery root (3/4-inch chunks)
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions (leave whole, add frozen)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped capers
Directions
Brown the meat and aromatics:
  1. Set a rack on the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F. Select a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Cut a large single-layer square of cheesecloth, and rinse it to remove any loose fibers. Spread the cheesecloth flat and pile the garlic, rosemary, peppercorns, and orange zest in the center. Gather the edges to form a pouch and tie tightly with kitchen twine. Set aside.
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  2. Tie the roast into a snug shape with twine, pat it dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. In the Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat thoroughly on all sides, turning with tongs, about 5 minutes per side. The meat should sizzle but not scorch; adjust the heat accordingly. Transfer the meat to a large plate.
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  3. Lower the heat to medium, add the pancetta, and cook until just browned and beginning to crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to the plate with the beef. Spoon 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pan into a small dish and discard the rest.
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  4. Evaluate the drippings on the bottom of the pot. They may be very dark, almost black, but if there are any scorched bits, wipe these out with a wadded paper towel (if in doubt, taste a fleck; as long as it doesn’t taste acrid, it’s fine). Return the pot to medium heat and add the 2 Tbs. reserved fat. Add the onions and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until darkened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Deglaze and braise:
  1. Add the brandy, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any remaining drippings on the bottom of the pot if necessary. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbs.
  2. Add the red wine, beef or chicken broth, and the cheesecloth pouch of flavorings to the pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer. There should be at least 1 inch of liquid in the pot. Add more broth if needed.
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  3. Return the meat to the pot, along with the pancetta and any juices that have accumulated. Return the liquid to a simmer, and cover the pot with a sheet of parchment, pushing down so the paper touches the meat. Set the lid in place. Slide the pot into the oven and cook for 2 hours, turning the roast with tongs after 1 hour.
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  4. Turn the roast over once more and then scatter the carrots, celery root and pearl onions into the liquid around the roast. Continue braising, covered with the parchment and the lid, until the meat is fork-tender, about an hour longer. Test for doneness by spearing the meat toward the center with a carving fork. Pull out the fork carefully: If it lifts the meat along with it, continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes.
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Make a sauce from the braising liquid:
  1. Transfer the pot roast and vegetables to a shallow platter; tent with foil. Strain the remaining liquid into a measuring cup, discarding the spent onion, fennel, and pancetta and the cheesecloth sachet of flavorings (we did not discard anything but the sachet.) Let the fat rise to the surface and spoon it off. Wipe out the braising pot with a paper towel.
  2. Return the strained juices to the pot  and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Taste and evaluate. If the flavor seems weak, simmer vigorously over medium-high heat to reduce the volume and concentrate the flavor, 5 to 15 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in parsley and capers.
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  3. Snip the strings from the pot roast and carve the meat across the grain into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the meat on a serving platter. Ladle about half the sauce over all, garnish with the vegetables, and serve, passing the remaining sauce at the table.
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Make Ahead Tips

Follow the method through the oven-braising, and transfer the meat and vegetables to a platter. Strain and degrease the juices as directed, wipe out the pot, and then return the meat and vegetables to the pot and pour the strained juices over all. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to three days. To serve, gently reheat the roast in the pot until the juices are once again liquified. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a baking dish, moisten with some of the juices, cover, and heat in a 325°F oven until warmed through. While the meat and vegetables are warming, proceed with the recipe as directed to make a sauce from the juices.

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