Sunday, March 10, 2013

Forsake not the sear!

What more traditional Sunday dinner is there than a pot roast?  For many of us, it's the perfect meal to pop into the oven (or crockpot) before we leave for church in the morning.  Hours later, we return to a home filled with the delicious scent of pot roast and if one is really on top of things, peppers and carrots simmering away in the same pot. 
Pot roasting making is pretty standard American fare and relatively easy for anyone.  The Mr. is a huge fan and will happily make it himself if the mood strikes.  He has two approaches; crock pot or oven bag with French onion soup mix for seasoning.  He prefers instant potatoes to those roasted with the meat.  He throws a can or two of premade gravy to the juices and is a happy man.  I'm not going to be a pot roast snob, I sit right down with my plate of instant potatoes and canned gravy/juice and dig right in.  However, I have a different approach when it's my turn to present a pot roast for dinner.
Rule number one...forsake not the sear!
I am a cast iron cook.  Anything that can be made in my cast iron dutch oven or in my ancient cast iron skillet is my preference.  Pot roast is no exception.
I start by heating olive oil in my cast iron pot on the stove top.  While the oil is warming up over medium high heat, I rinse my roast and pat it dry with paper towels.  Then I rub in cracked pepper, coarse salt and garlic on the top, bottom and sides of the roast.  When the oil is just about smokin', I put the roast in and sear it on all sides.   The smell is amazing and you know you're done searing when it looks like you want it to look.
After searing, heat oven to 350 and get your dutch oven ready to throw in for the roasting portion.
I add quartered potato, carrot, green pepper and onion to the pot.  I am not above using the onion soup mix, although I prefer the canned version to the dry.  I like to start with a base of tomato paste or sauce (about 4 ounces give or take depending on the size of your roast.)  To the tomato paste I add soup mix if I'm so inclined but usually a few cups of beef broth (chicken broth will work too.)  I whisk the mixture and pour it over the meat and veggies and into the oven for a few hours (again depending on the size of roast and your preference for done-ness.)
The tomato will flavor and tenderize your pot roast like nothing else and creates a base for the most rich and amazing gravy ever ever in the history of gravies.  If you have red wine, that's a great addition at about a 1:1 ratio with broth. 
After the roast is done, transfer meat and veggies to a platter to rest and start on your gravy.  Simply put that fabulous cast iron dutch oven back on stove top and carry on with your standard gravy method.  In my case, I remove a cup or so of the liquid to a large measuring cup and whisk in a few tablespoons of flour until it's thickened and then slowly add back into the large pot again, whisking in slowly.  With the already seasoned liquid, I usually don't need to add anything to my gravy.  I make as much gravy as possible hoping for leftovers because...
Yes!  You guessed it, I make soup!
If there are left overs, I use the gravy as my base and any meat or veggies left and make soup by adding in broth and tomato juice or V-8 and whatever else is around.  Rice, potato, pasta for starch if desired.  Corn, green beans or whatever else you like.  I will often put the left over soup base into a large Ziploc bag and freeze it for easy soup when I'm in the mood.
I know that I've added a few steps to the process that sort of make this a more complicated approach than the easy throw-together method that most of us appreciate for busy Sundays.  But you can do the prep, including the sear, the day before and then toss it into the oven in the morning as always.  Crock pot?  Not my favorite choice, I prefer the oven roasted method.
Get yourself a cast iron dutch oven and get to searing!

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