Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Week 15: Stracotto with EVOO Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Meat and me - we don't have a real great history, especially roasts and me.

I've tried making roasts in the crock pot. I always anticipate that such a choice will result in a house that smells great, and a roast that flakes apart and tastes fabulous (with very little effort).

In reality, what happens is that the meat gets completely burned, all liquid cooks out of the crock pot, the meat ends up in the trash, and we go to Applebee's (or some other ridiculous restaurant) in place of eating the roast.

(I've even tried buying and returning and returning and returning several different crock pots thinking that the problem must, in fact, be with the crock pot and not with my cooking methods.)

Then, there was the lamb incident. Even using the oven and a brand-new meat thermometer couldn't fix my relationship with meat.

Alas, I refused to let the meat defeat me and decided to try (yet again!) to make a roast. And, this time I was victorious, and Brad was happy.

Stracotto (Italian-style Pot Roast)
Serves 6 to 8
from Cook's Illustrated: Italian Favorites (p. 36)

1 boneless chuck roast (about 3 1/2 pounds)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped medium
2 small celery ribs, chopped medium
10 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 medium garlic gloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 C low-sodium beef broth
1/2 dry white wine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 - 1 1/2 C water (varies)
1 tsp dried rosemary

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly pat roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in large heatproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to large plate; set aside.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, carrot, celery, and mushroom to pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add chicken and beef broths, wine, tomatoes and juice, and thyme, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot. Add enough water to come halfway up sides of roast. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat, then place large piece of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven. Cook, turning roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

5. Transfer roast to carving board and tent with foil to keep warm. Allow liquid in pot to settle for about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Add rosemary and boil over high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 C, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Carve meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices or pull it apart into large pieces. Transfer meat to warmed serving platter and pour sauce and vegetables over it. Serve immediately.

This was totally delicious. I used a chuck roast that was a little more than 2 pounds. It still took almost 3 hours to cook. I was worried the whole time that I was over-cooking it, but it was really clear when it was cooked enough. Also, checking it every 30 minutes was a great way to be sure I didn't over-cook. I do have to say, though, that turning the roast every 30 minutes really interfered with my Sunday-afternoon napping schedule!

Also, the chuck roast I bought wasn't tied, and I didn't tie it. The recipe made a big deal out of tying the meat, but I didn't have any baker's twine and didn't want a Bridget Jones-esque blue string incident.

We will make this again - maybe even for company. It was that good!

Garlic and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6
from Cook's Illustrated: Italian Favorites (p. 39)

2 lb russet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp juice from 1 lemon

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook at bare simmer until just tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

2. While potatoes are simmering, mince 1 garlic clove. Place minced garlic on cutting board and sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt. Using flat side of chef's knife, drag garlic and salt back and forth across cutting board in small circular motions until garlic is ground into smooth paste. Transfer to medium bowl and set aside.

3. Mince remaining 4 cloves garlic. Place garlic in small saucepan with 1/4 C olive oil and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic foams and is soft, fragrant, and golden, 5 minutes. Transfer oil and garlic to bowl with raw garlic paste.

4. Drain cooked potatoes. Using paring knife, peel skins from potatoes; quarter.

5. Add remaining salt, pepper, lemon juice, and remaining 2 Tbsp uncooked olive oil to bowl with garlic and cooked oil and whisk to combine.

6. Fold mixture into potatoes. Blend together using an electric mixer on a slow speed.

A few things about this recipe. . . I was nervous about the amount of garlic, but the end result was really great (not anything that would scare vampires, as I originally thought). And, I've also saved you from a fatal typo in the original recipe. The recipe lists 2 Tbsp olive oil in one place and 6 Tbsp olive oil in another place. I used 6 Tbsp. It was way too much olive oil.

The verdict. . . the potatoes were a great mate for the roast. I think they'd also taste great with chicken marsala. We will make them again.

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