Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Cow Pot Roast

At 6:30 this morning, I suddenly realized that I had a culinary crisis on my hands (good heavens! not that!) I had defrosted a beautiful braising cut of beef in the fridge and if I did not do something with it immediately (i.e., before I went to work) I wouldn't have a chance to cook it before it went bad. Much as my body was begging me to hit the snooze one more time, the motivation of not wasting this cut of meat was enough to get me going to the kitchen. Twenty minutes of prep later, I had the crock pot going and I was getting ready for work. Let me tell you, at 8 tonight when I finally rolled in the door, I was pretty happy I had put in the extra work this morning.

Before recently I didn't spend too much time thinking about where the beef came from. Pot roast, like any other comfort food, should be cheap and relatively easy. My mantra had always been that you want the cheapest cut of meat you can get if you are going to braise something. The more connective tissue to break down and create the body of the sauce, the better. All that tissue breaking down leaves the piece of meat tender and tasty. And I'm still right about this, to some degree. Now I am going to suggest that you buy the cheapest cut of meat you can get, as long as it comes from a happy cow. After watching this movie and reading this article and reading this book, I became convinced that life is just too short for eating industrial food. Even if you don't want to read/watch these, take my word for it: buy organic, grass-fed, happy beef. It is tasty, better for you, and carries much less risk.

I got this cut of beef (an arm roast, actually, further down the limb of the cow from the chuck roast) from a wonderful new shop in Williamsville, NY called Farmers & Artisans. It is in the old Sweet Jenny's building, for those who know the neighborhood. They feature local and regional foods, have an on-site bakery, and are a year-round source for the kind of things we usually only find at the farmers market during the summer. This should also be a go-to place for New York State artisanal cheeses.

Farmers & Artisans got their hands on some Amish grass-fed beef that is simply wonderful. These cows ate what they were supposed to eat: grass. It is flavorful but not gamey. I highly recommend going out to raid their freezer and treating yourself to a good comfort food meal one of these nights.

Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables

3 pound braising cut of beef (chuck roast, arm roast, etc.)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1 12oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup beef stock

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium fry pan over medium-high heat. Brown all sides of the beef, taking about 3 minutes per side. Remove beef and place in slow cooker.

In the same pan, lower the heat to medium and saute the onion until tender but not brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add these ingredients to the slow cooker.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine and pour over the beef in the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to the cooker, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Roasted Vegetables*

3 carrots, scrubbed
3 parsnips, peeled
2 small turnips, peeled
3 potatoes, scrubbed

Cut all vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in a single layer in a baking dish. Roast at 400F until browned on the outside and fork-tender, about 50 minutes.

(serves 8)

*Go crazy with this. You could add celeriac, rutabaga, beets, fennel bulb, squash, sweet potatoes, or any number of other things to this mixture. I'm just telling you what we did for dinner tonight, but use your imagination and the ingredients that you like for this.

1 comment:

Devon said...

I completely agree that happy beef makes happy people :) I'm so excited to hear about the Williamsville farm shop, too! What a great spot and a great idea (although Sweet Jenny's orange chocolate milkshake was incredible). My new favorite roasted root veg trick - toss in whole, peeled cloves of garlic with the rest of your veg. They get all nice and smushy to schmear on a bite of beef, a hunk of bread, or nicely browned potato wedge. Yum!