Comfort Food: Mediterranean Style Beef Tender Roast

Friday, February 26, 2016

It's been ages since I've blogged. One part taking a break, two parts busy life, I found myself for the greater part of the past two years mired down in just surviving the day-to-day of a working mom of three little ones, let alone having time to properly research recipes, experiment, and blog about any of it. But just as quickly life got unexpectedly so busy, the love for cooking came back.

We had just gotten back from a week-long trip to Anaheim for a Greek dance competition. It was a classic end of winter/early spring day in Seattle -- dark, stormy, and begging for the fireplace to be stoked-- and the thought of eating more restaurant food in a stale booth made me physically ill. I ached from the physical fatigue of dancing and running up and down the hotel at early morning hours to make practices and costume calls, and the mental exhaustion from competition left me bereft of any ability to consciously create a peanut butter sandwich, let alone a meal for my family.

As exasperation set comfortably in again, I was thunderstruck by something. That moment when something hovering somewhere between this world and an unseen but still felt other, literally slaps you in the back of the head and you physically snap out of your funk. My mind (which I affectionately call The Nebula) was immediately filled with images of colorful tuna tartare, a perfectly cooked steak with oven-roasted truffle potatoes, and a spring salad of apples and sharp, tangy goat cheese. My mouth watered and my husband's fell to the floor when I said I'd be right back; I was off to Whole Foods to grab some food to make dinner.

My ingredients purchased and my nerves undeterred, I quickly set to task making the tartare first. I gambled and decided to make it from memory, despite it being some five, even six years hence that I'd made this dish, and one ingredient forgotten or a too big a splash of this would ruin the $20 ahi I just bought. To my satisfaction, it came out perfectly. I still got it. And thus, has rekindled my spark for cooking and blogging.

I begin here not with the tartare (no pictures, I'll blog it soon, though, I promise!) but rather with a related dish I made some days later. Echoing the theme of comfort and welcoming of "coming home," I give you a pot roast. Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, red wine, and earthy oregano and garlic permeate this one-pot meal. It is hearty and filling without sitting heavy. And served with mashed potatoes or crusty bread is the perfect late winter, early spring comfort food meal. Enjoy it. And nice to see you all again.

Mediterranean Style Beef Tender Roast
1 (3 1/2 lb.) beef chuck tender roast
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large stalks celery, ends trimmed and cut into small chunks
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 large bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups beef stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season the beef roast liberally with salt and pepper all over.

Heat about 1 tablespoon's worth of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add roast and begin to brown, turning so all sides of the roast get caramelized and browned. This takes about 7 minutes total. Once browned, remove roast to plate and set aside. 

Turn heat to medium. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Add onion, carrot, celery to pot and season with a little salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook vegetables about 10 minutes or until softened.

Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and thyme and stir to combine.

Add the wine and using the liquid and a sturdy wooden spoon, scrape up any "brown bits" at the bottom and sides of the pan; this adds flavor. Add the beef stock and stir to combine.

Gently add the roast back into the pot together with any juices that have accumulated on the plate, and scoop a little bit of the vegetable and sauce mixture on top. Doesn't have to be covered, just a little bit to help to begin flavoring the roast. Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn off stove and cover with lid. Place Dutch oven into the oven to bake for about 3 1/2 hours, or until roast is fork-tender. The vegetables and liquid will thicken a little during cooking as the vegetables begin to break down, making a thinner sauce.

Remove from oven and let stand to cool 5 minutes before cutting.

To serve, slice roast into 1 inch thick rounds and serve on plate with scoops of the vegetable mixture if desired.

I love making a batch of mashed potatoes with some freshly grated horseradish for this dish, but buttered potatoes, noodles, pasta is great as a side or base to make a dish or just serve some freshly baked bread.