Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Soul Food - Italian Style

If I had an Italian Grandmother, I’ll bet she would make this. It doesn’t really have a name, but I call it Italian Pot Roast. It is incredibly good, and pretty much the only way I make pot roast anymore. It is not fancy, it is peasant food. Very rich and very hearty. The treatment I give the leftovers is so good, I more often than not, don’t make it as roast anymore and go straight to the pasta sauce. I don’t remember how I came up with this, but I recall an old cooking show with an Old Italian woman making a roast with caramelized onions and wine. I came up with the pasta sauce myself. I wish I could remember her name or the show. I would like to see her recipe to see what is different. This was years ago, long before the food network.

I shred the pot roast into the sauce and serve it over fettuccine or tagliatelle. Sorry Konagod, this is a carnivore’s delight. If you want to serve it as roast, skip the shredding step and serve the gravy over garlic mashed potatoes.

You may click the picture for a close up.

Italian Pot Roast

One large chuck roast (two small is fine, it will be shredded anyway.)
2 large, or 3 medium sweet onions
One carrot, peeled and diced
About a half rib of celery, finely chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
About a half bottle of decent red wine.
14 oz. quality crushed tomatoes. (fresh is wonderful, if they are ripe and excellent)
Beef broth
Herbs and spices*

*I don’t really follow a recipe, it depends on what I have on hand, and what mood I’m in. I will explain how I usually do it in the recipe.

In a heavy oven-proof dutch oven, sear the roast on all sides. (Make sure the roast is dry or it won’t brown properly.) I usually salt and pepper it first. It needs the salt for sure, but pepper can burn, so be careful. When the roast is brown all over, remove it to a platter and add the onions, sliced. This next step is important. Caramelize the onions. Don’t skimp on this step, it is vital for the success of the sauce. Salt and pepper the onions about half way through this step. When the onions are caramelized, (and only then) add the carrots, garlic, and celery. Now is the time to add the herbs. This dish cooks for so long, dried herbs are really the way to go here, but by all means, use fresh if you want. I use fresh rosemary because I always have it. Fresh basil loses it’s punch, but it can be added later. I use a bit of oregano, rosemary, a couple of bay leaves and marjoram. Again, add herbs and spices to your own taste. It should not taste like spaghetti sauce. It is a much deeper and richer flavor. I have even made this at a friend's house with packaged “Italian Seasoning” with great success. When the vegetables are soft, pull them out and place with the roast. Deglaze the pan with the wine. When the wine has come to a complete boil, and all of the fond has dissolved, put the roast back in the pot. Pile the vegetables on top of the roast and add beef broth until the roast is just covered. Place the tight-fitting lid on the dutch-oven and place in a 275º oven for three hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Discard the bay leaves, and if used, rosemary sprigs.

Refrigerate over night. You can eat this right away, but it is way better if you wait a day.

The next day, warm it up on the stove until just barely warm. Pull out the roast and place on a platter. When the roast is cool enough to handle, place the vegetables and sauce in the blender. Blend them until smooth. Pour the sauce back into the pot and bring to a simmer.

Shred the roast into tiny pieces. Discard any fat or tough bits.

Taste the sauce. Again, taste the sauce. Adjust the seasoning at this time. How do you like it? Needs more salt? Black pepper? I usually add some red pepper as well. If you have fresh basil, this is the time to add it. If it is too thick add water (or broth – no wine this late in the game.) If it is too thin (more likely) reduce a bit. When it is the right consistency add the meat back in along with any accumulated juices. Heat through and serve on pasta with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Repeat as necessary.


Anne said...

I can't wait to make this. I bet it would also be great mixed with penne or ziti and baked with some grated mozzarella and Parmigiano on top.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Ummm, you're right!

That would be good. Now I know what to do with the leftover sauce.