Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rick’s Oven-Braised Straccato (Pot Roast) over Polenta

1 Tb. olive oil
1 3 lb. chuck roast, tied with twine ( I like Black Angus)
1 medium onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)
1 cup hearty dry red wine
2 cups beef stock plus more if needed.
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried sage leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper

This is basically a pot roast.  Eliminate the tomatoes and garlic, substitute dried thyme for the sage, add a bay leaf, and you have my basic pot roast recipe. That one I would serve over mashed potatoes, but this one I like over polenta. A straccato is a regional Italian pot roast, and this is my take on it. Let’s call it a North Jersey pot roast!

This is easy but takes a bit of time, which is what braising is all about.  I cook it all in my cast iron Dutch Oven, but you could do it in any fireproof pot that can go from the range to the oven. You can also cook the whole thing on the range top, but I like the even heat of the oven. I made this yesterday, put it in the oven at 4 p.m., went and had my daily nap, and it was all ready to eat by 6:45 (it needs to sit for a bit). Even better make it the day before, slice the cooled meat, heat up the sauce, and you are ready to go.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Heat the oil over medium high heat and swirl it around until it covers the bottom. Dry off your roast with paper towels (it won’t brown if it’s damp) and sprinkle it liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Then using tongs, or two wooden spoons, put it in the pot and brown it on all sides (don’t use a fork, because it will release the juices and you want them in there). Depending on your heat this will take between ten and twenty minutes, but the trick is to get it a very dark brown without burning it, so pay attention (which is what good cooking is all about).

When the roast is nice and brown, take it out and put it aside on a plate, and reduce your heat to medium.  Put in your chopped onion, carrot and celery, and stir with a wooden spoon now and again until the veggies are also nice and brown (but not burnt!), about ten minutes.

Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute or so, then add you wine, beef stock, herbs and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let it cook for about ten minutes.

Then lower the meat on top of the veggies.  The braising liquid should come about half way up the meat.  If it doesn’t add more stock, but don’t put too much liquid in, because you want to braise it and not boil it.

Bring it back to a good boil, put the lid on it, and put it in the oven.  A 325 degree oven will typically keep a simmer just about right for braising, though you may need to adjust your heat according to variations in your oven temperature.

You want to cook this for about 2 and 1/2 hours total.  After about an hour, check the pot, lower or raise the oven temp if needed, and flip the meat over. If the liquid is low top it off with some more stock.

After two and one half hours, check the meat. It should be nice and tender but still firm enough to cut.  Put it on a platter, tent it with foil, and let it sit for fifteen minutes. While the meat is cooling, put your braising liquid on the range top and simmer it to reduce the sauce, stirring now and again. Remove the parsley sprigs, taste and season for salt and pepper.

Slice your meat against the grain and plate it over the polenta or mashed potatoes, then ladle the sauce generously and enjoy.  We had this with steamed brussel sprouts last night for a hearty winter meal, but a green salad would work fine.  A dry red wine will be just right. We drank a Masciarelli, a nice inexpensive Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, that is our current house red. This makes a nice, pretty easy, meal on a cold winter night that will be a crowd pleaser.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)


  1. I can endorse this; it's very similar to Julia Child's pot roast in The Way to Cook, which is one of the few recipes I actually follow from a book. She just has a few more herbs and spices in the bouquet garni.

    A couple of tips:
    I tend to brown the meat in the oven under the broiler - much less messy than doing it in the pan. Just paint it with oil and move it around under the broiler.

    Also, what Julia suggests is: do the browning and everything up to the baking step a day in advance, put the pan in the fridge and let everything marinate for 24 hours. It gets that wine flavor through the meat better.

    Or, to incorporate your suggestion of cooking a day early, start at t-48, marinate overnight, cook at t-24, refrigerate overnight, reheat at t-1, and eat.

    We always end up with a lot of leftover gravy, which we put into the bean soup.

  2. Thanks, Martin, for the suggestions.

    I have Julia's book How To Cook, but I have never made her pot roast. I also don't consult my cookbooks much when I blog recipes to avoid the temptation to make it too much like somebody elses But, as I've said, good cooking like good preaching is derivative of the works of others.

    I've been cooking so long I don't even know who all my influences are, but Julia is certainly a big one for me, as she is for many.

    As to leftovers, you can also shred the leftover meat, add it to some spaghetti sauce or good canned tomatoes with the leftover gravy, and have a killer ragu to put over pasta, sort of a faux Bolognese sauce.

  3. when i bought my house throught costa rica homes for sale i wanted a great kitchen with a big space to put a big oven. Now i can baking every kind of cakes in there.