I have the third installment of my egg series to post later today, and since it requires a lot of last minute monitoring, I needed a main dish that I could didn’t need to babysit. What’s more effortless than an oven-braised dish? It was time for some beef after days of chicken and pork dishes.
I turned to my old pal Jacques Pepin. I loved watching him cook– on his own shows as well as with Julia Child. I imagine him to be a very funny, friendly dude, and his dishes were ones that I knew I could make at home. I use his recipe from his book with Julia titled “Cooking at Home.” His pot roast dish is unique because the braising liquid consists of white instead of red wine, resulting in a completely different pot roast– lighter, fresher, yet still rich in flavor.
I veer slightly from his recipe ingredient list; I have always substituted potatoes for turnips (yuck). I also cannot get bottom round roast at Wegman’s, but the butcher recommended top round over eye, so that’s what I buy. I now use frozen white onions instead of the little white cooking onions (I hate blanching and peeling those suckers) and canned tomatoes instead of fresh during the winter.
The flavor of this dish relies heavily on a good browning of the roast before it goes into the oven. Say 15 minutes or more. Once you’re done browning, you assemble the roast and braising ingredients into a large Dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset pots), clamp on the lid and let the roast slow cook in the oven FOR HOURS. Once the meat is tender, you add the remaining vegetables and continue cooking til they’re tender. I serve the roast with a crusty baguette, but you can serve it as is, without accompaniment.
Pot Roast Braised in White Wine (adapted from Jacques Pepin in Cooking at Home)
- 5 lb beef bottom round roast (I can never find this; the butcher told me I could use top round instead, but never eye round)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 TB olive oil
- 2 c onions, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 c canned chopped tomatoes (or 1 large fresh, chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 1/2 c white wine
- 1 1/2 lbs potatoes (I use the small white ones)
- 1 bag frozen pearl/boiling onions
- 1 lb baby carrots
- 1 1/2 c frozen baby peas
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Prep the braising ingredients: onions, tomatoes, bay, thyme and wine. Season the roast with the salt and pepper.
Over high heat, coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with oil (just a film). When the oil is hot, add the seasoned roast and sear about three minutes on each side. You want the roast to be well browned, with fond developing on the bottom of the pan.
Spoon out any excess oil, and add the braising ingredients. Stir well, scraping up the bits of fond, and bring the liquid to a boil.
Clamp on a lid and place the pot into the preheated oven. Let braise for 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender.
Add the carrots, onions and potatoes and cook another hour in the oven until they are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. In the last half hour, add the peas.
Remove roast to a platter (I never bother to slice the roast ahead of time), cover with foil and then a couple of dish towels, Thicken the sauce with a slurry of cornstarch and water (I used about 3 TB of cornstarch and 3 TB water– just make up a lot and add it by the tablespoon until you get the consistency you want). Jacques recommends potato starch, but I’m not buying a box just for pot roast.
Unwrap the roast and surround with the gravy and vegetables.
Perfect dish for a winter day.
Next post – “The Egg – Part 3 of 3.”