Turn that inexpensive cut of beef into Sunday night dinner
One of my very favorite low-and-slow meats is a chuck roast, a seven-bone roast, to be exact. A seven-bone chuck roast doesn't have seven bones, just one shaped like a 7.
Sometimes, I'd buy two seven-bone chuck roasts and cut the meat off the bone into big chunks and make a very tasty beef stew, using the bones for flavor, discarding them at the end.
Since I'm no spring chicken, not even a late-summer chicken, lately, I've been sourcing my beef from a whole-animal butcher.
My butcher sources his beef from a single source: a rancher whose steers are grass-fed and grass-finished.
Here's a tip: grass-fed, grass-finished beef fat is a pale yellow. If the fat's pure white, it probably isn't grass-finished.
Here's an example of why I like my whole animal butcher. My butcher's ground beef is ground in his shop from a single animal. Grocery store ground beef is usually not ground there and is frequently made up of hundreds of cows/steers, which some say can be a problem -- one single healthy animal; very rarely any issues.
My beef costs more than supermarket beef. And there's a good reason for it; it costs more to produce. It takes longer to get a steer to its best weight. No antibiotics or hormones are used, either; slowing down the time it takes, too. For me, all good.
Beef chuck's fat and connective tissue make it not only taste great (remember, fat is the transportation on which flavor rides); if properly braised (low and slow), it should end up being moist and tender, too.
Several years of experimentation taught me that if I braise meat at 225 degrees, I'll always end up with tender results. Since it's so lean, that's important for grass-fed, grass-finished beef.
My butcher doesn't have seven-bone chuck roasts available; only rolled-and-tied chuck roasts. Since braising season just began, it's the perfect time for me to head into my kitchen to braise my first rolled-and-tied chuck roast.
Epicurious.com gave me clues on braising and flavoring my roast. They used olive oil; I used good quality beef tallow (fat) to kick up my roast's flavor. While my roast seared, I diced the classic: carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. When nicely browned, I let my roast rest on a dinner plate, lowered the heat, and slowly softened the vegetables. Next, I added a bay leaf and some thyme, along with beef broth and red wine, and finally returned my roast to my Dutch oven. I braised my roast for 4 hours.
When it was done, I turned off my oven, placed the roast on an oven-safe plate, and let it sit in the still-warm oven. Meanwhile, I cooked chunks of carrot, celery, potato, and cabbage wedges in the simmering braising liquid. In the end, I added one heaping tablespoon of potato starch to a little water and stirred that thickener into the liquid, transforming it into a tasty gravy.
Was it good? Better than good, it was great. The chuck roast slices were tender and flavorful, and the vegetables were perfectly cooked.
Got a cool day and some time, give it a try.
Last week this column celebrated its 28th anniversary appearing in the Daily Herald. When Lean and Lovin' It first appeared in 1992, I had no idea I'd be fortunate enough to write it still and share my recipes with you 28 years later. From the bottom of my healthy heart, I thank you, my readers, for this long run and happily look forward to the 29th year.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@ theleanwizard.com.
Low and Slow Chuck Roast
2 tablespoons good quality beef tallow (or olive oil)
3 pound rolled-and-tied chuck roast
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¾ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 medium organic onions, diced
5 whole cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 organic carrot, finely diced
1 stalk organic celery, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 cups beef broth or stock
1 cup full-bodied red wine, such as a cabernet
2 organic carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into chunks
3 medium organic russet potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
3 organic celery ribs cut into chunks
½ medium cabbage head, cut into 6 wedges (make sure stem is part of each wedge)
1 heaping tablespoon potato starch (or cornstarch)
2 tablespoons water
Place the oven rack in the lower-middle position and begin heating the oven to 225-degrees.
Rub roast all over with salt and pepper.
Place heavy-duty Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add beef tallow or olive oil, heating until shimmering. Brown roast on all sides; about 20 minutes in total. Remove and place on a dinner plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes and then add diced carrots and celery and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add bay leaf and thyme and stir until fragrant. About 1 minute. Add broth and wine, bringing to a boil, scraping up the brown bits. Return roast to the pot, cover, place in the oven and braise for four hours.
Turn oven off. Set Dutch oven on the stovetop, uncover and transfer roast to an oven-safe bowl and return to the oven. Add potatoes, carrots, celery, and cabbage. (Vegetables should be covered with liquid; add more broth if needed). Bring to boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until potatoes can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Whisk potato starch into the water until combined. Pour mixture into Dutch oven and stir until thickening.
Remove roast to cutting board and slice. Immediately serve sliced pot roast with vegetables and gravy. Serves 6.
Nutrition values per serving: 572 calories(49 percent from fat), 31.1 g fat(12.3 g saturated fat), 28.6 g carbohydrates (24 net carbs), 5.9 g sugars, 4.6 g fiber, 36.7 g protein, 124 mg cholesterol, 1007 mg sodium.
SaltSense: Omitting the added salt reduces the sodium per serving to 425 milligrams
CarbSense: Omitting the potatoes reduces the carbohydrates per serving to 13.2 grams.