Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Giada's Christmas Pot Roast (Stracotto) with Porcini Mushrooms
When I saw Giada's hour long Christmas special recently, a pang of disappointment hit me. Every recipe was one she'd made before on Everyday Italian! I got over it though and before I knew it I was in my kitchen making her Straccato - a boneless chuck roast with Porcini Mushrooms and Onions.
I thought I hated pot roast until I made this - I can't even tell you how good it is. In fact I'll now try and refer to it by its Italian name as 'pot roast' is just too drab for something this exciting and delicious. I will admit that after straining the fat from the gravy and blending it, it initially tasted like a salt block. But don't worry your pretty little heads. A splash or two of water, a good glug of brandy, and a handful of fresh herbs turn into Jesus juice. Amen.
I also made the classic parmesan polenta to go with it. If there are any two things on this earth more meant to be together I'd like to know what they are. I for one, vote pot roast and polenta as couple of the year.
In hindsight I'm so glad Giada pulled out this oldie but goodie. Otherwise I might have never made it!
* Meat and Potatoes Foodie Tip - resist the urge to season the onions and sauce throughout the cooking process. If you add too much salt in a sauce before you boil it down or before it cooks for a long time, it will become overly salty and you won't be able to eat it. Just season the beef before searing and hold off adding any more salt until you've tasted it at the end (I didn't need any - in fact I had to desalt it a little!)
Pot Roast (Stracotto) with Porcini Mushrooms
* Lightly adapted from Giada deLaurentiis
* recipe halved to serve 6 or so people
1 (2.5-3 pound) Boneless Beef Chuck Roast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper, for seasoning
1 Onion, chopped
3 Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 (14 oz) can of low sodium beef broth, divided
1/2 oz (I use a little more) Dried Porcini mushrooms
2 nice sized sprigs of fresh thyme
a nice handful of fresh chopped herbs, I prefer basil and flat leaf parsley
Glug of brandy
Water, for thinning the gravy (about half a can if re-using the beef broth can)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a heavy 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Really let it brown though - you want a nice crust here! Remove the beef and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the wine and raise the heat so that it begins to boil, craping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Let bubble away for a minute, then stir in the broth, one of the thyme sprigs and mushrooms. Return the beef to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil if not already doing so. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for one hour, then using tongs, carefully flip the meat to the other side. Add the rest of the can of broth, cover and cook for another hour. At this point, turn the oven to 300 and cook for another hour (or longer if you aren't ready to it), checking on it once or twice to be sure the bottom isn't drying out (add a little water if so.)
Remove from the oven. Carefully remove the meat from the pot (I used two giant spatulas) - the meat should be tender and falling apart at this point which makes it difficult to transport. Put it on a holding plate or tray, lightly covered with foil as you make the gravy.
Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices (it's the glossy, clear stuff sitting on top, not the darker, flavorful juice underneath.) Carefully transfer the defatted gravy to the blender. Add about half a can's worth of water (recycling the beef broth can), a glug or two of brandy, and a fistful of fresh herbs (basil and flat leaf parsley plus the last sprig of thyme.)
Blend until smooth and taste for seasoning. If it's a little blah, add some salt. If it's too salty, add a little more water and/or brandy, blend, and try again. The beauty about gravy is it's almost always fixable (as long as you haven't been salting all the way through!)
Once satisfied, add the gravy to a small/medium saucepan and reheat (do not boil!) on low JUST until warm.
Cut the beef into 1-inch slices against the grain and place on a platter (I like to remove any 'weird' fatty bits from the meat before serving but you don't have to.) Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and serve the remaining sauce on the side. Sprinkle leftover herbs on top and serve.