Beefy Heaven: Wine-Braised Chuck Roast with Vegetables

Friday, September 2, 2011

As promised, if I'm going to give you just one recipe a week, I promise you it will be a great one!

The bed rest has given me lots and lots to consider in terms of advanced food preparations and easy cooking and clean up. Many people get intimidated by the words "roast" or "braised" because I think, they've had so many badly roasted turkeys and dry braised beef. In fact, roasting and braising in particular are probably the easiest cooking methods out there right after boiling a box of pasta and adding jarred sauce.

Yes, I'm serious.

No, I'm not bullshitting you.

I was getting just sick of all the take out lately. I was determined to make something healthy and flavorful, and with the weather up here in Seattle getting gloomy and cold for a few days, I took advantage of some homey, comfort food I could prepare easily during the morning, then let cook away in the oven while I rested all afternoon. Thumbing through my Zuni Cafe cookbook, I found this delicious recipe for braised beef chuck. It so happened I had a beef chuck in the freezer front and center, begging to be used! Done! Simple vegetables of onion, carrot, celery, and garlic add body and amazing flavor to the braise. While beef broth and wine add acidity and depth of flavor. I couldn't find celery root at the market for some inexplicable reason, so instead I used a combination of celery stalks and a parsnip root (i.e., the white looking fat carrot) to recreate the flavor. It turned out incredible. Simple bay leaf rounds out the flavor of the braise for classic savory goodness.

While making this I tasted it only an hour and half into braising and it was incredible. By the end, with the slightest drizzle of balsamic as they suggested, I was in pure heaven.

This recipe is classic, based on the French techniques and flavors. It's straightforward, comforting, pure heavenly beefy and vegetable goodness that is just what the doctor ordered on a colder, gloomy day. Although Irish beef stew will always hold a place in my heart, I think a very close second is this wine-braised chuck roast!

Serve with classic mashed potatoes, baked potato, risotto, polenta, or my new personal favorite side dish: Salted Roasties.


Wine-Braised Chuck Roast with Vegetables
1 (4 lb) chuck roast with fat trimmed, but some fat still left on
1 very large yellow onion  (or two small ones)
2-3 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 large parsnip (or 2 skinny ones)
1 head garlic -- cloves peeled
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 bay leaves
4 cups beef broth
2 cups red wine: recommend syrah, cab sauv, or a blend using these
2-3 Tbsp good olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar

Take the beef and set it out to room temperature. Very generously season all sides with salt and pepper. You want to go a little heavier on the seasoning because you want to create a good crust when browning. You can season the beef up to 3 days in advance actually, and just bring it out to room temperature before ready to brown.

Prepare the braising liquid. Place the broth and wine in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered about 15 minutes, or until liquid begins to reduce. By reducing the liquid first, you're concentrating the flavor.

While the braising liquid reduces, prepare the vegetables. Trim the ends off the onions and peel them. Slice into 1/4"-1/2" thick slices. Peel and cut the ends off the carrots and parnsnips. Cut into slices or chunks, to your taste. Wash and trim the ends off the celery, then cut it into small chunks. The size of your vegetables will depend on how much you want to see and eat them with the finished product. Some people like to have them disappear in the pot roasts; to achieve this cut the vegetables thinly and small. Some (like me) like to see chunks of vegetables I can still bite into; cut them larger then and thicker. Don't worry about doneness -- the amount of time they stay in the oven will get all the vegetables super tender, no matter how you cut them.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and move the rack into the bottom third area.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof braising pan like a Dutch oven. Once oil is hot, add the meat and brown on all sides. This means you want to achieve a nice, golden brown crust all around. This will do two things: (1) create a crust, sealing in the moisture inside the meat which will make a more tender roast and (2) add tremendous flavor as the fat gets rendered out of the beef. After the meat has been browned, add the vegetables all at once and fix them around the meat and on top. Sprinkle about the garlic cloves, add some more good grinds of black pepper, and sprinkle in the bay leaves. Pour the broth-wine braising liquid right over the meat and vegetables and fit tightly with lid. Place in oven and cook for 4-5 hours. Start checking the doneness of the meat after hour 2, and once an hour move the vegetables around and spoon them back on top of the meat. Halfway through, turn the meat over.

You know the roast is done when (a) the meat is extremely tender -- "fall off the bone" and easily pierceable by a knife or fork; (b) the vegetables are extremely tender; and (c) the liquid has reduced and concentrated. If you notice the liquid not concentrating, take the lid off the last half hour or so of cooking.

Don't worry -- you cannot overcook this dish!

To serve, take the meat out very gently and let rest on a serving platter. Remove any bones and cut the meat preferably against the grain into portions. Skim off the fat and discard. At this point, if you prefer a heartier vegetable simply spoon out the vegetables and serve on top of the sliced meat. If you wish to have a more meat-centric dish as the book suggests, run the vegetables through a sieve to gain a puree. You can add more beef broth to the puree then if you want a thinner consistency. I personally like the dish chunky.

Either way, give the beef and vegetables a final small drizzle of the balsamic vinegar on top. The acidity will brighten the flavors and really make the savory pop. Serve hot.

I love serving it with these Salted Roasties.

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