Because of El Nino
Once February rolls into March, I typically start thinking beyond hearty comfort foods and dishes that deserve long hours in the oven. By this time of year, we have moved on to lighter fare. We usually start grilling again in earnest, and eating meals outdoors.
But here we are, closing in on the end of April, and because of El Nino, we here in Northern California have been “enjoying” an extended winter season. For us, that means rain, so we can’t complain too much. And if you love to ski, then it’s even better, because scattered between these rainy spells are bluebird ski days up in Tahoe.
We’ve been rather busy, so there haven’t been any spring trips to Tahoe, but it’s also meant that we have been yearning for food that sticks to your bones. Braising meats in the oven means those kinds of meals, plus extra warmth to ward off the chill in the damp air. So, here it was, last weekend, and I found myself making a Pot Roast.
A pot roast is not necessarily glamorous, but I like to think it can be. Why not dress it up by cooking it with adorably chic pearl onions and a good lug or two (or three) of an elegant Merlot?
I will admit that pearl onions are a pain to peel, but thankfully I have a little sous chef in the kitchen who was eager for some busy work after being cooped up indoors. My daughter set upon those pearl onions and peeled away like a trooper, despite the tears it yielded.
As for the wine, I used a luscious 2006 Partner’s Reserve Merlot from Soquel Vineyards in Santa Cruz. [Lately we've definitely had a thing for Santa Cruz wines, if you can tell.] It was perfect in giving the braising sauce a heady essence. It also tastes pretty darn good out of a glass. This 2010 Silver Medal Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is succulent and rich, just right to savor along with this graceful pot roast.
By the time I post this, we’ll be (fingers crossed) having a typical warm spring weekend. But, the rains are due to return, so if the weather turns cool wherever you live, keep this Pot Roast in mind. It’s just right for those long, cold, rainy weekends.
Elegant Pot Roast
- 3.5 lb roast (chuck or rump)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cup good red wine, such as a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
- 12 oz pearl onions, peeled
- 1-2 cups mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 red potatoes, quartered
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure roast is dry by blotting it with a paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, making sure the roast is evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Brown the roast on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside. On medium heat, add carrots, celery, bell pepper and garlic and saute about 3-5 minutes. Add wine and allow to cook down, scraping bits at the bottom of the pot.
Return meat to the pot, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, then transfer to the oven. Allow to roast in the oven for 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender. Rotate meat periodically. About 20 minutes prior to removing the roast, add the potatoes and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Remove bay leaf before serving.