My sister just had her ankle replaced four days ago, so I decided to make a meal I thought she’d really enjoy: Chuck Roast with potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms.
- beef chuck roast (look for even marbling so as the fatty parts melt, they help tenderize the stringy meat pieces)
- 1 or 2 cans of beef broth (or vegetable, or chicken …)
- a pinch of dried rosemary or a couple sprigs of fresh
- vegetables of your choosing (carrots, celery, mushrooms, potatoes …)
Here’s an overview of my method I used with any meat that is a bit tougher.
1. First, I prep the veggies. I like to wash then cut them up. I rarely peel anything like carrots or potatoes.
2. Then in really hot oil, or oil & butter, I brown the onions a bit. Not cooking, mind you, just browning a bit so they share their flavors with the oil in the pan.
3. Then I add carrots … and maybe the celery to brown them a bit also.
4. Set aside the veggies so you have your pan free to brown the meat next.
5. Next I coat both sides of the roast with kosher salt and some pepper before browning the roast on both sides in the same pan I did the vegetables. (This is where I add butter to the oil.)
6. Here, the meat is browned a little, but it could stand to brown more, so I’ll let it go a while then flip it again … and remember to keep the pan hot!
7. Now I add some liquid (broth, water with bouillon, stock, wine) to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring the browned bits off the pan. I make sure I have enough liquid here to make into a gravy later. This is where I like to add about 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary or 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary to the liquid (this way it will be spread all through the pan, and the smells of rosemary will infuse itself throughout).
8. I seem to never have enough room in my dutch oven for the roast and all the veggies I put in, so I have a roasting pan set aside (you know, something big enough to roast a turkey…); thanks for the perfect-size pan, Cuisinart!
9. I finally place the roast in my baking/roasting pan. I put the veggies over and around the roast, placing most solid (like potatoes) on the bottom later.
10. I then add the browned veggies I had set aside earlier, and I pour the liquid from the browning pan over the top.
11. Now cover the pan with a lid or a piece of foil so it can slowly cook undisturbed at about 275 degrees for about 2 hours per pound of meat. (Yes, just like when you’re cooking ribs, low-and-slow is the way to go.) In reality, I cook a 3-lb roast for about 7 hours. (Put it together just before lunch, have a bite to eat, clean up the kitchen, and you’ll have plenty of time to get ready for dinner guests in the evening … and no dirty dishes to contend with when guests are arriving.)
12. When the time is up, check to see if the meat is falling apart tender yet; if not, extend the cooking time 30 minutes and check again. If it is, get everything out to a warm holding area and either keep the liquid as an ‘au jus’ to accompany your meal, or thicken it to make gravy.
This is what mine looked like (after I took a couple plates away for “testing purposes).
Here are the “tricks” that aren’t so tricky:
- When the meat and vegetables are in the oven, no peeking! This is like a cocoon where the butterfly is being created … it must not be disturbed until it is nearly ready to come out. Yes, you will have to just be patient and have faith that the cooking gods are with you.
- When browning the veggies and meat, be sure you have the oil hot … not necessarily starting to smoke, but nearly so.
- Pick vegetables you and your fellow eaters will enjoy.
- Something to make it a little “sweeter” tasting … try throwing in a couple of diced tomatoes. It makes it a little more like swiss steak, but kids might like this better.
- When you make the juices into gravy, you can shake (or wisk) flour and either water or milk to make a creamy gravy … or use cornstarch with water to thicken it into a more clear gravy. Not enough flavor? Keep some Kitchen Bouquet on hand or gravy flavoring liquid (I get mine at an Amish grocery near my home) … a little splash will do it!
- When deciding how much salt to rub onto the roast before cooking, remember you are seasoning the meat and all the vegetables and the broth too … don’t be too stingy!