In the countless times I’ve prepared pot roast I never once thought to cut the beef into individual pieces. So I was intrigued when Jamie Callison introduced me to the idea with his pot roast recipe while working on the Crimson Spoon Cookbook. I guess I’d never thought to mess with something that repeatedly delivered such reliably satisfying results. Irresistible cooking smells and tender yet slightly chewy deeply flavored meat. Pot roast at my house was just for family and usually a Sunday dinner. Until Jamie’s idea came along.
Jamie describes this technique as a way of everyone getting an end cut. Being an end cut kind of person, he didn’t need to say one more word. I knew I would love it. One bite in confirmed I might never go back to using a chunk of beef. Searing each piece creates more caramelized flavor and deepens the color of the finished sauce. There’s no slicing involved for serving, just cute pieces of beef all ready to be scooped up onto each person’s plate.
I tried his technique with my original pot roast recipe posted three years ago and several modifications when a group of friends gathered for a casual winter dinner last month. It was easy to serve and it held well in the 30 minutes it was finished prior to serving. I served it with tiny yukon gold potatoes tossed with a few tablespoons of olive oil and roasted until softened and browned (see recipe note below). It’s definitely entertaining worthy, I was thinking Valentine’s day or even a last minute menu idea for a Super bowl party.
Here are a few things to know and keep in mind before you begin. Beef chuck comes from the shoulder and has connective tissue that needs liquid and heat to break down and become tender. Braising (from the French term “braiser) achieves this by partially covering a seared meat with a liquid and slowly cooking it. The meat takes on the fragrant flavors of the braising liquid. In this case red wine, beef broth, fresh herbs and garlic. The liquid should not boil but rather simmer to help achieve more tender meat. I save a step by not straining the sauce and simply stirring the flour slurry right in with the small softened pieces of onion and carrot in the braising broth.
Cut the beef chuck into individual pieces:
Heating the oil sufficiently before adding the beef helps achieve good browning “searing”:
Just out of the oven before removing the beef to thicken the broth:
- 3 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 6 to 8 pieces (if you're not comfortable doing this ask the meat department to do it)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- ½ cup chopped carrot
- ¾ cup red wine
- 1-1/2 cups beef broth or stock, or more as needed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste or 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed open
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup beef broth or water
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Choose a dutch oven style pan with a tight fitting lid that can be used to brown the beef and cook the vegetables and then transferred to the oven (beef should fit in a single layer in the pan).
- Pat meat dry with paper towels then sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat; add beef (in batches if necessary) and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes; turn and repeat with other side. Remove beef.
- To the same pan, add additional 1 tablespoon of oil if needed, then add onions and carrots and cook and stir until softened and lightly browned.
- Add wine, bring to a simmer and cook to slightly reduce about 2 minutes. Add beef broth, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a simmer, stirring to incorporate tomato paste. Add browned beef, in a single layer, making sure the liquid comes halfway up sides of beef (adding more broth if necessary). Cover and transfer to preheated oven.
- Cook until beef is cooked through and tender (a fork poked into the beef pulls the meat away fairly easy) adding more broth if necessary to keep beef covered halfway up sides and not allowing the liquid to boil (check after about 45 minutes and if liquid is boiling and not simmering, adjust oven temperature down to 275 degrees F.) about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
- Remove beef from pan and keep warm. Skim the fat from the surface of the broth. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and ⅓ cup broth to make a loose paste ("slurry"). Add a few tablespoons of the braising broth to the paste and stir until smooth (this "tempers" the flour so it won't clump up) then whisk it back into the braising liquid. Simmer while stirring 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange beef on a platter or individual plates. Pour sauce over and around beef.