I was at Chef Gaita’s farm-to-table restaurant Grace Park a few days ago where I reunited with her delicious meatballs and creamy polenta – my fave!
There is something so comforting about soft, warm, saucy protein sitting atop a bed of creamy, mushy starch. Eating this reminded me of a pot roast that my friend Ginger brought to a Christmas potluck dinner not too long ago. It was so good, served with a side of truffled mash, so obviously I had to ask for the recipe. And then I chanced upon Nigella Lawson’s white bean mash recipe while mindlessly scrolling through Twitter a few days ago and yum, wouldn’t the two make a delicious pair?
The beauty of braised dishes like pot roast is how an inexpensive cut of meat is turned into something glorious with flavorful liquid and time. There’s a sappy love quote here somewhere. But really, there’s so much wisdom in food!
I would make braised dishes at home more often but braising gives me anxiety because my oven is half the size of a standard one and my Dutch oven is tiny. I made osso buco one time and my proportions were all screwy and the liquid kept reducing but the meat wouldn’t tenderize accordingly. Needless to say, I had to engage in deep breathing exercises before scaling down the original recipe to feed three:
1 850g beef chuck roast
Olive oil as needed, about 6 T
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, sliced into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups beef stock (I used half a stock cube dissolved in hot water. Sue me.)
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
(This is a clumsily scaled down recipe but hey it worked out!)
1. Preheat the oven to 135 C/275 F. Heat the olive oil in Dutch oven on medium-high. Add the roughly chopped onion and cook until you see some browning. Add minced garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. When done, transfer to a plate.
2. Bring back the Dutch oven to the stove and add a splash of olive oil. Add carrots and cook until you see more browning. Transfer to plate when done.
3. The next step is the all-important one of searing your meat. It was once thought that searing meat was about sealing in the meat’s juices but according to badass food writer Michael Ruhlman this isn’t true and I tend to believe him because he is such a food nerd, it’s adorable. He is also the only “celebrity chef” (he’s technically a home cook) who replied to my desperate chestnut paste query a couple of years ago on Twitter (“Try it on pork”).
As with the veg, searing meat is about caramelization or what’s also called a Maillard reaction which adds depth of flavor to your dish. And a key thing to remember when searing meat is patting your meat dry to remove as much moisture as you can because moisture will make your meat steam and we don’t want that in a searing situation. So do that and liberally season it with salt.
4. The next key thing in searing meat is a hot pan. So bring the Dutch oven back to the stove, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on high and quickly ready, set, sear!
5. Deglaze the Dutch oven with red wine. Bring back the meat to the Dutch oven. Add in beef stock, onion, carrot, dried thyme, dried rosemary, a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pop in the oven and forget for 3 hours. (You won’t forget because this smells like heaven on Earth in the oven.)
While this was cooking, I made a salad with citrus glazed beets inspired by one I had at Tavolata in Cebu. I don’t think beets are in many people’s radars, it sure wasn’t in mine before trying this salad, but chopped beets roasted in a dressing of orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper (think vinaigrette that’s a tad too tart) will leave you obsessed. I think it just might be the tastiest way to prepare beets.
I also pan-roasted some asparagus with olive oil and herbed salt, super simple and delish.
And then I made Nigella’s white bean mash which turned out to be my favorite food surprise in a while. It’s creamy and buttery and nutty and lemon-y without the guilt of mashed potatoes, it’s fantastic. And so easy to make!
I checked in with my roast (also a good time to taste and adjust seasoning) and thought it needed about 30 more minutes which I thought was odd because the original recipe cooks a bigger hunk of meat in less time. This is why I have anxiety! Anyway, when I thought the roast was soft enough it looked like this:
Ohohoho. To serve, I sliced the meat into manageable chunks and lay them atop a bed of white bean mash and finished with a generous drizzling of sauce and veg.
The roast looks a little dry here but it was nothing a dip in sauce couldn’t fix and there was a lot of sauce so yay!
This pot roast was tender enough but I would’ve kept it in the oven for another 30 minutes if it weren’t for the hangry kid I live with in the form of my dad. It was super flavorful though and I loved how it made for a really wholesome and satisfying meal with the white bean mash. Plus how simple was this to put together? Just don’t take it upon yourself to make a bazillion veggie sides like I did hahaha! Perhaps I can cut the roast in two for speedier cook time in my next attempt. Also looking forward to much less anxiety.
Fun Food Fact: Today I’d like to give you not a fact but a quote that perfectly sums up pot roast. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch once said:
“I love pot roast. It’s a meat that’s fallen out of favor, but not flavor.”