Monday, November 28, 2011

Braised Pot Roast with Leeks

Ah, braising. If you've been following my blog at all, then you know how fond I am of this technique. It makes everything tender and flavorful - meat or vegetables. And it is so easy! And even though it takes a long time, there is little work involved and once the braise is going you can pretty much ignore it and still end up with a a delicious dinner. And the leftovers just seem to get better.

But as much as I love the process, and the layers of flavor you get when you load up with aromatics and root vegetables, sometimes even that is too much work. I had pulled a chuck shoulder out of the freezer and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator, but by the time it was ready to be braised I was not so ready to braise it.

But braise it I must, so I decided to follow Mark Bittman's lead and make it as minimalist as possible. I decided a leek would add enough flavor to some chicken stock, along with some home-made ketchup and fennel seeds. The carrots, potatoes, and squash could wait for the next day.

I browned the meat in the oven while I cooked down the leeks. The whole thing was in the oven within a half hour and there was very little to clean up when it was done. Easy peasy and out-of-this-world delicious! The next day I didn't even bother with the rest of the vegetables, I just cooked up some potatoes and mashed them with some squash and garlic I had roasted earlier in the week (and was the basis for this Thanksgiving dish) to use as a bed for the roast.

I made it the weekend before I went down to Austin for my nephew's bar mitzvah and I had more of both the beef and the potatoes left over than I could finish before leaving. I gave them to a co-worker so he could have them for lunch. When I got back he asked for the recipe. Can't get better validation than that!

So not only will I give it to him, I will give it to you as well.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Serves 4

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise, well rinsed and thinly sliced
2 to 2-1/2 lb chuck shoulder roast
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup, preferably home made (or any tomato-based sauce)
2 cups beef or chicken stock (or water)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 deg. F. and line a baking sheet with foil. Bring the meat to room temperature and put it on the sheet. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper and bake in the 425 deg. oven for 15 minutes.

While the meat is browning, in an oven-proof dutch oven or heavy pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seeds and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to let them burn. Add the leek and garlic and turn the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until they have turned translucent and tender.

Two minutes before the meat is done, raise the heat back to medium-high and add the tomato paste to the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring frequently.

Take the meat out of the oven and lower the heat to 275 deg. F. Put the roast into the pot browned side up. Cook for two to three minutes without moving the meat.

Add the ketchup and the stock to cover the roast about halfway up the sides. Add more stock or water if necessary. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and put in the 275-degree oven. Bake 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is falling off of the bone.

Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside, covering loosely with foil. Return the pot with the cooking liquid to the stove and cook over medium heat until it has reduced to the desired thickness.

Can be served immediately or the next day. Store the meat separately from the sauce. Before serving the sauce, remove the cold layer of fat from the top before reheating it.


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