Even though the sun is staying up longer and longer everyday, it is still winter. My one pair of full length running tights get worn just a little too long between washing than is socially acceptable. My days start with a big mug of intelligentsia french press which is followed by many more cups of hot tea. And weekends should be spent braising.
I recently checked out an excellent cookbook from the library that has been well reviewed by one of my favorite people and spent a Saturday morning on the couch, recovering from a 7 mile run, flipping through the pages to find inspiration.
I decided on the Zinfandel Pot Roast with Glazed Carrots & Fresh Sage recipe both because I don’t get a lot of red meat in my diet and I was sorta craving it and it would give me some practice with kitchen twine. This cookbook is broken up into different sections based on the type of meat (or vegetables) to braise. The first section of the book goes into the science of braising and all the recommendations of the type of vessels and technique. Needless to say this book is going on the wishlist (or Amazon registry). Some of the other recipes that look interesting are: Whole Chicken Braised with Pears & Rosemary, Honey-Glazed Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs, and Braised Leeks with Bacon & Thyme. I’m going to give you a rough sketch of the recipe but I can’t express just how great of a resource this book is if you want to get into braising.
The best part of this recipe had to be the carrots. I don’t often eat carrots except cut up raw in a salad and I forgot how wonderful they can be slightly cooked but still firm and not at all mushy.
Ingredients for the Braise:
1-3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless beef chuck roast (she gives a great description on the different cuts on meat in the book–yet another reason to buy it)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cup Zinfandel
1 cup of beef or chicken broth, hopefully homemade
3 large 3-4 inch fresh sage sprigs
3-6 to 8 inch flat-leaf parsley sprigs
8 to 10 black peppercorns
Ingredients for the glazed carrots:
1 1/2 pounds small to medium carrots (or do half parsnips when in season); cut into 3 inch by 1/2 inch sticks (thicker parts quartered, thinner parts halved)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oven to 300F. Tie the roast with kitchen twine. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven (I used my 6 quart) over medium heat. Brown the beef on all sides, turning with tongs as you go. Each side takes 3 to 4 minutes or so to get brown. I covered my pot with a splatter screen but be warned that you might get splattered by the oil. After all the sides are brown, remove the beef to a plate. If any of the dippings look charred, get them out, but the rest will be tasty.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the ingredients start to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pot and boil to reduce the wine by half, about 6 minutes. Add the stock, return to boil and reduce by a third, about 5 minutes. Return the meat to the pot, add the sage, parsley and peppercorns. Cover the pot with a piece of parchment paper and set the lid in place. The parchment helps the moisture to stay closer to the meat. Put the pot in the lower third of the oven and braise until fork tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Check after 20 minutes to make sure its not simmering too vigorously, and if so, lower the oven temperature by 10 degrees.
Remove the pot from the oven and lift the beef with tongs onto a serving platter or plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid and press down on all the solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard the squeezed out solids and put the liquid into a medium saucepan. Let the liquid sit for a bit, then spoon off and discard as much of the fat as possible. This is a little tricky so don’t get discouraged. Measure out 1/2 cup of the strained liquid.
To make the carrots: Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil/butter mixture is quite hot, almost to the point of browning, add the carrots. Season with salt and pepper and cook while tossing and shaking the pan for about 8 minutes. You want the carrots to be browned in spots. Add the 1/2 cup of braising liquid, cover partway, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover, bring back to a boil and add the vinegar, sugar, sage and parsley and cook for another minute.
Heat the remaining braising liquid to a boil for a minute or two to reduce. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.