Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Suppers: Italian Pot Roast

Hello my peoples.  Crazy how another week has flown by, huh?  Here in New York we had two glorious days of fall, and then it was back to the parallel alter-universe of disgusting, extra-seasonal weather that we've all come to love to hate.  Rain and sweat and yuck.

But let's just pretend, for a brief moment, that we are indeed experiencing a glorious fall day: the weather is crisp, the leaves are turning the landscape into a vibrant watercolor, and we have the undeniable urge to throw on chunky sweaters and sip hot spiced cider.  Mmmm.  This is the ideal weather for a pot roast!

Stracotto means "overcooked," an unfortunately dull and misleading adjective the Italians have used to describe this decadent, melt-in-your-mouth meat dish.  I went to my cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking, for this one and am glad I did.  When it comes to the intersecting planes of soupy, saucy, and meaty, the Rombauer-Becker clan have got you covered.  I only changed one thing, which was the amount of fresh herbs used.  I dialed those way up, since herbs are not only delicious but full of excellent antioxidant properties, good for staving off that autumn chill.

Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto) - adapted from The Joy of Cooking
8 to 10 servings

3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped
10 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 boneless beef pot roast (4 to 5 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt

 1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib with leaves, chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf

2 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef or chicken stock
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed


In a small bowl, mix the garlic and herbs.  Set aside half the mixture and mix the rest with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the black pepper.  Make about 10 deep slits all over the pot roast and stuff them with the herb and oil mixture.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the roast and brown on all sides, about 20 minutes.  Be careful not to let it scorch.  Remove the roast to a platter and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  Sprinkle the roast with salt.

Return the pot to heat and add the onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms, and bay leaf.  Cook until the onion is lightly browned, then add the herb mixture and cook another 30 seconds.  Add 1/2 cup of the wine and the tomato paste, and boil until the pot is almost dry.  Then stir in another 1 cup of wine and 1 cup of stock.  Reduce to less than 1/2 cup.  Finally, add the roast back to the pot, along with the rest of the wine and stock, and the crushed tomatoes.

Bring to a gentle simmer and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting so that the liquid barely simmers and cook for 2.5 hours.  Turn the meat every 30 minutes or so.  When the roast is tender, move it to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.  Skim off any fat from the sauce and take out the bay leaf.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  If the sauce seems too thin, boil it down for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.  Slice the meat about 1/4 inch thick and serve it with the sauce.

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