Chuck it

Ever since we started getting some really cold days (well, cold for this thin-blooded North Carolina girl) I’ve been wanting to make an old-fashioned pot roast.  I’m hankering for the kind of thing that weighs as much as a toy poodle, and cooks at 250 for 6 or 7 hours.   A big hunk of meat that comes out of the Dutch oven or roasting pan falling-apart tender.

But there are two built-in complications in my longing for slow-cooked cow meat.  And they both spring from the same source.

And have you ever noticed a cow?  Those guys are big.  I found a couple of bones in the woods near my house.   Now I’m no cow physiologist, but I think it was a femur, and a tibia.  They were insanely big—heck I don’t know, I might have stumbled upon a dinosaur graveyard.  They sure looked like something Fred Flintstone would order at the Neanderthal Bullocks. So…it’s very difficult to get a roast of a size that would make sense for just Petey and me.  And the prices of these cuts have risen along with their popularity.  An 8 lb. chuck roast can easily come to 60 bucks.

I’ve always braised a roast; that’s cooking low, slow, covered and partially submerged in broth.   But the past few times, I’ve dry roasted the roast.

Braising is great for some dishes, like stew, and chili.  But the flavor and texture that come from dry roasting is unique and unparalleled.  You get crispy bits, and that lip-smacking unctuousness that makes you keep eating long after you’re full.  A brisket cooked this way can make a strong carnivore weep.So I was in Lowes the other day checking out the meat that had been marked down.  There was a package of two steaks that were heavily marbled.  They were about five dollars.  I checked the label to see what the cut was, and it informed me I was holding a pack of chicken thighs.

What the what?

I asked the butcher and he told me when they mark down the meat, sometimes they just put in another type of meat into the computer because it’s the price they want to charge.  It was beef, and they were chuck steaks.

The only way to cook chuck steak quickly is to grind it up.  There’s lots of connective tissue that, no matter what you may want, takes time to cook down.My plan was to dry roast the meat.  When you do that, you use a rack so it’s not sitting in any juices and fat that drip off.  The rack I’d use would become part of our dinner.

Into a deep sided casserole dish, I threw in quartered red-skin spuds, a couple handfuls of mushroom caps, and some onion.  I drizzled the veg with a little canola oil, and some salt and pepper, then tossed to coat.  It’s also a really good idea to have either a liquid or a large quantity of salt on the bottom of the roasting pan, so when there are drips they don’t create a bunch of smoke.Salt wasn’t really an option, because there was food we wanted to eat down there.  So, I needed liquid.  Since the veggies would be cooking in said liquid, I wanted it to bring more than just moisture to the party.

I added a few bay leaves, fresh rosemary, and some dry thyme.  I spooned in a little umami paste from Trader Joe’s, a spoon of chicken base, and a couple teaspoons of Worcestershire.  Then I poured in a couple healthy glugs of sherry, laid the steaks on top, and slid the whole thing into the oven, set to 250.I can’t tell you exactly how long it will take.  My steak took five hours, flipping the meat, and tossing the veg every hour.  But yours could take six or eight, or three.  It all depends on how thick they’re sliced.  All I can tell you for sure is; cook it until it’s falling apart tender, and that takes some time.  But it is definitely worth it.

If you want slow-cooked deliciousness, try a chuck steak.  If you want something quick, open a can of tuna.

You really need to open the can…

Thanks for your time.


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