Detroit Eats

Musings of A Detroit Based Food Fanatic

Comfort Food for a Cold Winter’s Night

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         Winter is certainly here and now that I’ve put the grill away it’s time to crank up the oven and fill the house with the smell of one of my favorite meals, Pot Roast. There are about as many versions of this classic recipe as there are cooks in the United States (and probably the world). Although the ingredients might vary there some things that all cooks should know about. The first has to do with the cut of meat. Any cut of meat can be made into a Pot Roast. The most popular cuts (rib, tenderloin and sirloin) are a waste of good money and anyone who tries to make Pot Roast with this should be arrested by the Meat Police and held indefinitely. These cuts should only be served medium rare. Anything further along the temperature chart and the get tough and dry out. A second possibility are the round cuts Top round, eye round, and bottom round (and also brisket) can be used for Pot Roast also have a tendency to also dry out. This leaves us with the chuck and shoulder.  Several supermarket names for chuck and shoulder are English Roast, Blade Roast, 7 Bone Roast or Chuck Eye Roast. These cut have the proper amount of fat to give you a flavorful Pot Roast. The down side is that they also have a fair amount of connective tissue (collagen) that must be broken down for.

         This brings us to our second point: temperature. In order for the connective tissue (collagen) in your meat to break down it need to melt. When it melts it creates gelatin. This is what gives you that silky feeling in your mouth. This begins at 160 degrees. If your cooking temperature is too high the the connective tissue (collagen) will just tighten up and the meat will give up it’s moisture too quickly. When cooking a Pot Roast the “low and slow” rule applies. Depending on the size of your roast it will take about 3 -4 hours to cook (at 325 Degrees).

         So you get your roast and you know to cook it “low and slow”. What now? I will follow with my version of Pot Roast. It’s pretty basic but has a few tips and tricks.

    Chef Ed’s Pot Roast (Serves 3 to 4)

    2-tablespoon vegetable oil

    2 # Chuck Roast (English Roast)

    1 1/2 cups onion diced

    2 teaspoons of garlic

    1/2 cup celery diced

    1-teaspoon thyme

    1-cup fresh fennel bulb diced

    1 cup of red wine

    1 cup of beef broth

    2 tablespoon of tomato paste

    1/4 packet of unflavored gelatin

    1/4-cup cold water

    2 teaspoons cornstarch

    1/4 cup cold water

    For Gremolata*( optional):

    · 1/4  cup finely chopped fennel bulb

    · 2  teapoons finely chopped fennel fronds

    · 2 teaspoons  grated orange or lemon rind

    * Gremolata can be made at any point during the cooking process

  • Salt and pepper your roast lightly
  • Heat your on the stovetop in an ovenproof pan (large sauté pan or Dutch oven) until smoking
  • Sear your roast on both sides until well browned (about 3-4 minutes a side)
  • Remove roast from pan and add onion, fennel, celery and garlic. Stir until vegetable begins to brown.
  • Remove from flame and add red wine. Simmer for 2 minutes
  • Add beef broth, tomato paste and thyme
  • Return roast to the pan
  • Place lid on pan, bring to a boil, The place in the oven (325 degrees) and braise in a 325 degrees oven for 3-4 hour or until tender remove from oven.
  • When tender sprinkle the unflavored gelatin into to cold water and let sit for 1 minute. Pour into braising liquid.
  • Bring to a boil on the stovetop.
  • Add, to the sauce, an 2 teaspoons of cornstarch (stirred into 1/4 cup of cold water). Bring to boil
  • Turn off flame. Stir in Gremolata. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes
  • Serve over buttered Egg Noodles


  • Many recipes call for the roast to be coated in flour before searing. The flour has a tendency to burn before the roast can sear. This is why I will thicken at the end of the cooking.
  • The addition for unflavored gelatin is an attempt to replace the some of the natural gelatin that exists in a properly made stock but is lacking in a commercial beef broth.
  • A Gremolata is a condiment that is traditionally made of flat leaf parsley, minced garlic and lemon zest. It is very easy to make and it make a huge difference in this dish

Written by Ed Schenk

January 4, 2010 at 10:44 am

Posted in Food

Tagged with , , ,

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