Sunday morning I poked my nose out from under my comforter. Then I darted it back under. Yup, it was October all right. A chill has set in New York City, the kind that makes the air crisp and makes you think of little else but cider and pumpkins and hayrides. In my chilly apartment, however, it had me thinking about getting warm. The heat is not yet on in our building, so suddenly I had the opposite problem of two months ago, when it was sweltering in my unairconditioned digs. Instead of thinking of dishes that wouldn't utilize the oven at all, I was thinking hard to think of dishes that might warm things up a bit. A dish that would have me turning the oven on and leaving it on. A slow cooked piece of meat that could be served up next to mashed potatoes and warm me all the way down to my toes. It was Pot Roast season.
The next step is to decide what you are going to put into your gravy. Some sort of stock is usually used for the braising, most recommend beef but I've found a rich vegetable stock can work very well. You're going to have plenty of beef flavor when you are done, don't worry. I'm also a huge fan of pouring a cup of red wine in there, which does wonderful things to beef. Wonderful, aromatic things. The pile of vegetables you put in must be carefully selected, because they are going to be in that pot awhile, and will probably turn to mush. There is always the option of adding vegetables some time during cooking, which is known as a "Yankee Pot Roast". Me, I'm a traditionalist. A lazy traditionalist. Once I shut the door of the oven, I'm not really looking to futz with this thing much more. I'll flip the roast and give it a stir at the halfway point, but that's it. Once my roast is in, it's in.
This recipe can be adapted for the crock pot, you just need to throw in another cup or two of stock, since that thing will be cooking for at least 6 hours on high and 8 hours on low. No matter how you cook it, it will make your home smell fantastic, and suddenly you wont be so cold.
The use of tomatoes in this recipe is unusual, as are the porcini mushrooms, but they turn this dish from a peasants dish into a much more sophisticated earthy roast. The juice from the tomatoes mixes with the red wine to create an almost Italian feeling, but the pot roast is still distinctly American. It is simply a more grown up version.
Red Wine Porcini Pot Roast
Adapted from Bon Appetit
-1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
-1 4-pound boneless chuck roast, tied
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
-2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
-1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
-3 garlic cloves, smashed
-1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
-1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
-1 cup dry red wine
Preheat oven to 300°. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; add mushrooms, cover, and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.
While mushrooms are soaking, sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer beef to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from pot. Place over medium heat, and add onion, celery and carrots. Saute until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and reserved mushrooms, saute 1 minute. Using hands, crush tomatoes, 1 at at time into pot. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently, and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add wine; boil 5 minutes. Add reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Boil 5 minutes.
Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil. Spoon fat from the surface of the juices in the pot. Bring juices to boil, cook until liquid is reduced to 4 cups, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut beef into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Transfer to platter. Spoon juices over and serve!
The gravy turns out as something close to ambrosia. The flavor is deep and rich, and it will soak into mashed potatoes and smothers the now tender meat with deliciousness. It is a truly satisfying and warming meal for chilly and rainy fall days. Will and I ate it up while wearing warm sweaters, and we celebrated the newly arrived fall.