Pot Roast

June 1st, 2008, by Francesca

Chef started off with a demo of how to clean a beef tenderloin. First, he separated the chain from the tenderloin…

… then cut off all the elastin, the yellowish connective tissue that, unlike collagen, does not break up with cooking…

… and portioned off the meat for individual dishes.

Then he showed us two ways of tying a piece of meat: loop knots and square knots. I like things easy so I'm going to stick with regular (square) knots. After the tenderloin demo, we cooked a pot roast dish, using a cut of beef called chuck, which is beef shoulder.

We rendered some pancetta in a pan, removed it and seared the meat – seasoned with salt, pepper and dried herbs – on all sides. We removed the meat from the pan, added the mirepoix (chopped onion, carrot and celery), put back half of the pancetta and added some minced garlic. Deglazed all with red wine reducing to demi-sec (reduced by about half) and added a bay leaf and equal parts of tomato sauce and brown veal stock. Brought it to a simmer, covered with foil and put in the oven at 350º F for about two hours. If you have 5-6 hours available (yeah, right) you can also cook it at a lower temperature, as low as 300º F.

When the meat was ready, we took it out, strained the sauce and put everything back in the pan on the stove to adjust the consistency of the sauce. This sauce should not be seasoned, because it gets reduced a lot and ends up concentrated and flavorful from all the ingredients and the seasoning on the meat. Don't say I didn't tell you.

We served the pot roast with a bunch of vegetables, alas, to be cut mostly as tournés. Cutting tournés is not one of my favorite pastimes; it's time consuming and wasteful and I take issues with both things. We parboiled the potato and carrot tournés, sautéed the zucchini, squash, eggplants, red bell peppers and onions, added the potatoes and carrots and some dried herbs and finished roasting all in the oven (6-8 min).

Although I am not a beef fan – I only cook beef to make ragú – the pot roast was really tasty. They call it Italian pot roast, but honestly, I've never known anyone in Italy who uses dried thyme or dried basil. And the only way I've ever used dried oregano before has been on pizza alla marinara. Here, if any form of oregano appears in a dish, it's automatically labelled Italian. Go figure.

Yeah, I went a little overboard with the plating; I should have done the rustic thing and mixed it all together. I actually prefer rustic cooking and presentations; I don't know what came over me.

Every Monday includes a written and practical test and tomorrow we'll have to cook a beef dish for our practical. After that, no more beef until finals week, something I am actually relieved about as I find the smell of raw beef mildly unpleasant. Starting Tuesday we'll be cooking fish. Yay! I love fish and am really looking forward to the fish and shellfish dishes.


Edited on June 20, 2008.

I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this post, but the cut of beef we used for our pot roasts was chuck, a cut from the shoulder, not tenderloin. Sorry about the confusion!

6 Responses to “Pot Roast”

  1. Steven Kesler Says:
    That pot roast makes me hungry. I think the slower you can cook food, the better it tastes (low temperature, longer time.) I recently purchased a crock pot and plan to slow cook a roast for many hours.
  2. Bobbi Says:
    Me too! I now try to make sure that I eat before reading your blog entries! Tonight was risotto.
  3. Maryjo Says:
    Nice looking stew, but I'm with you -- all that beef -- phew! But frankly, no one would buy that cut of meat for stew though but looks positively tasty! And definitely strange about the "dried" spices -- you can, after all, I assume get fresh. LOL I'm trying to grow some stuff on my windowsill as I want FRESH rosemary. We'll see. But our Genovase basil grows great!
  4. orata Says:
    Interesting about the oregano/thyme/basil. I never thought dried basil tasted like anything. (Dried parsley, either.) After living in Italy, I felt like the real Italian flavorings were soffritto, anchovies and nutmeg. I think most people here in the US wouldn't ever use nutmeg in Italian food, but it was in almost every savory recipe I looked at there, and we even had the whole little nutmeg with its own grater. On the other hand, American ideas about Italian food seemed to kind of confuse people I talked to. Here we think of orzo as a small pasta, there, it's a breakfast drink; I never saw any sun-dried tomatoes (though I suspect this is a regional thing, since I was in the north); and tomatoes and pesto, or fish and Parmesan, a couple of common American "Italian food" combinations, were a strict no-go according to people I talked to.
  5. Francesca Says:
    Orata – I agree with everything you said, but I am from northern Italy so that explains why I never used sun dried tomatoes. It would also never occur to me to use pesto with other ingredients. There really is a lot of regional variation culinary speaking throughout Italy, and some of the things you mentioned (like combining pesto with other stuff) are not even regional differences, but rather American "manipulations". :)
  6. Cilla Ann Says:
    The post roast looks really yummy, but I am really curious why they are not teaching the recipes with fresh herbs? Especially since they should be easily available. On another note, I think the American idea about most international cuisine seems to confuse people. Americans tend to really just mush together flavors an ingredients and blur all lines of regional cuisines.

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