Monday, December 19, 2011

Pot Roast 101 and a Recipe for Pot Roast with Tamarind

Gary likes to shred our pot roast. We served it in its sauce over latkes.
My mother was the queen of the pot roast, so making pot roast is part of my culinary heritage.  It’s a natural for holiday dinners (such as Chanukah or Rosh Hashanah) since your can cook it in advance and just reheat before serving.  In fact, it is almost required to cook in advance. There are two reasons for that. The first is that the flavors just get even better by letting it sit overnight and eating the next day.  The second is that there is absolutely no predicting when the pot roast will be done.  It could take two hours, it could take four.  I had one particularly reluctant specimen take eight hours until it reached the perfect you could cut-it-with-a-fork tenderness.

Making pot roast is really very easy, but here are some tips to help ensure success:

  • Cut away any extra surface fat, but don’t pick a piece of meat that is too lean. (That eight-hour pot roast was very, very lean).  I like to use boneless chuck roast, which I find flavorful and relatively economical.
  • Be sure to use a flavorful liquid and enough of it.  Think of the liquid as your flavor vehicle. In the recipe below I use tamarind and tomatoes for flavoring.  You could use wine and or broth for a more traditional pot roast flavor combination.
  • Be sure to add enough seasoning.  However, if you are using a kashered piece of meat you might want to go sparingly on the salt and season the gravy/sauce to compensate after you taste the cooked meat and sauce.  I find that meat that has been kashered (salted and drained according to the Jewish dietary laws) retains some residual salting and I can’t predict how little or much that will be.
  • Use a heavy enough pan or put a flame tamer or heat diffuser underneath a thinner pot to be sure you have even heat and to avoid burning.
  • Leave yourself enough time.  With a pot roast, meat passes through stages from raw to appearing to be cooked but hard as rock to full submission with the desired degree to tenderness.  The long, moist-heat cooking is breaking down the proteins and connective tissue, so you can’t just give a time for cooking a pot roast.  Keep checking, add more liquid if need be and keep cooking until a cooking fork pretty much glides through the meat.  If your pot roast is recalcitrant and just won’t get to that final stage of melt-in-the-mouth softness, you have two choices. Store it in the cooking liquid overnight and cook it further the next day and see if even more cooking will help or shredding it instead of slicing it against the grain.  Serving the pot roast shredded over mashed or boiled potatoes, noodles, soft polenta or similar is actually our favorite to serve it.

Pot Roast with Tamarind and Syrian Jewish Flavors
Serves about 6

The tamarind adds a slight tart note to the sauce that really complements the rich beef flavor. 

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 lb. boneless chuck roast
1-28 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
½ tsp plus ¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. plus 2 tsp. tamarind paste or concentrate
1-2 cups of water
2 Tbs. tomato paste

Add oil to a large, heavy pot. Heat over medium high heat and add onion slices.  Sauté until just softened then add garlic and sauté until onions are golden.  Remove onion and garlic from pot and reserve.  Add meat and brown on all sides. Lower heat to medium.  Add back the onions and garlic.  Add tomatoes with their liquid.  Using a spatula break up tomatoes into fourths. Stir. Add ½ tsp. of the salt and the pepper, cinnamon, allspice and stir. Add brown sugar and 4 tsp. of tamarind paste. Add enough water to bring liquid mixture to the top of the chuck roast.  Stir well.  Add tomato paste, stir again.  Bring the meat and liquid to a simmer.  Cover and lower heat to keep at a simmer, mixing sauce and turning meat occasionally until meat is as tender as you like, approximately 2 to 4 hours.  Remove meat to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.  While the meat is cooling, raise the heat on the liquid, add the 2 remaining tsp. of tamarind paste and cook uncovered at a low boil, stirring occasionally until it has reduced down to a gravy or sauce-like thickness. Taste and add in the ¼ tsp. of salt if desired.  Slice the meat thinly against the grain or shred.  Mix the meat back into the reduced sauce and reheat and serve or (preferably) store the meat in the sauce overnight in the refrigerator and gently reheat the next day.

For a round up of Chanukah (Hanukkah) recipes and information on Blog Appetit, including recipes for potato pancakes (latkes), check out this post.
For other pot roasts on Blog Appetit - check out the zippy cranberry version or my spicy pot roast with a kick
For pot roast recipes from around the web, check out Kayln's Kitchen's crock pot version, Simply Recipe's several recipes and Pioneer Woman's pictorial tutorial and recipe.


Sam said...

Faith,I will have to try this new twist. I, too ) love using chuck roast ( wouldn't matter since first cut brisket is not to be found here) onions, dried onion soup, ketchup (my grandmother's go to ingredient for every pot roast) and maybe some red wine. I cook it covered in the oven so I am sure not to burn it (a distinct possibility if I cook it on top of the stove)

FJKramer said...

Let me know how it turns out.
I sometimes cook pot roast in the oven but find it harder to control the temperature. I think it also makes more of a mess of the pot!

Sam said...

That's why Crisco invented a spray like Pam (which I hate)

Sam said...

I will have to wait for my next rip down so I can get Tamarind

FJKramer said...

Tamarind paste or concentrate is available on line
here is one vendor, they might also have a lot of the other hard to find items you need, Sam

Kitchen Riffs said...

This is a terrific post! I thought I knew my pot roast, but you've got me beat. Love the tamarind in this dish. Sometime you might want to try cinnamon - it's a great spice with beef, and a classic Moroccan pairing. Anyway, love the recipe, love the post - thanks!