The ingredients list calls for thickly sliced carrots, celery, and onions; when I’m teaching this dish and homey ones like it, I tell students to take the vegetables and “just whack them up”—the rougher the better.
Trim all visible fat from the beef and season it with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or casserole, and over high heat, brown the meat well on all sides. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Place the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just begin to color and the onions are translucent.
Add the pepper flakes, wine, stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, fennel, and herbs and bring it all to a simmer. Return the meat to the pot, cover it, and place it in the
Remove the meat from the pot and set it on a cutting board. Strain the liquid from the vegetables. (I suggest setting a colander in a big bowl or pot and scooping the vegetables into it first. Then you can probably lift the cooking pot and safely pour the liquid through the colander.) Let the liquid sit for a few minutes while the fat rises to the surface. Using a shallow spoon, skim off and discard as much of the fat as you can. Return the liquid to the original pot and boil it over high heat until it is reduced by approximately a third (just use your eyes) to concentrate the flavors. If you like a thicker, more gravy-like sauce, you can thicken the liquid by stirring in the cornstarch mixture. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Best Cuts for Pot-Roasting and Stewing
You can substitute all kinds of meats other than those called for in a recipe. The approach is basically the same if you are using pork shoulder or butt in place of the beef chuck or lamb shoulder. This chart lists the cuts that I think are best for pot-roasting, but be sure to ask your butcher too. Butchers, like hardware store owners, can be a little intimidating to the insecure shopper, but a relationship with one is well worth cultivating.
7-bone pot roast
Blade end pork loin
Brisket or breast
Boneless leg of lamb
Brisket first cut
Leg (fresh ham)
Brisket front cut
Whole or half leg*
*Available bone-in or boneless.
†Can be used, but today’s beef is leaner so cuts from the chuck are preferred.
‡Very flavorful, but not much meat compared to bone.
Slice the meat and return it and the braising vegetables to the pot. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the pot roast. As it chills, more fat will rise to the surface and congeal, making it easier to remove. Warm it through on the stovetop and serve: meat, vegetables, sauce, and all.
© 2004 John Ash. All rights reserved.