Comfort. Food. Time is right.
Today’s recipe is a combination of a traditional “Yankee pot roast” and an Italian version of the same called “stracotto” (“overdone,” but happily). The signatures in the latter are garlic slivers embedded in the meat, and an unholy amount of basil for verdant flavor, over and above the common and also-included herbal notes of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Serve this with whatever sides you desire or have on hand — baked or “smashed” potatoes, rice, pasta, or more vegetables; you get the idea.
- 3 pounds boneless beef chuck or rump roast
- 3 large cloves peeled garlic, slivered, plus 10 cloves whole garlic, peeled
- 4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 2 red or yellow onions, peeled and quartered or in eighths, depending on the size of the onions
- 3 stalks of inner celery, leaves included, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 large (or 2 medium) kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (you may substitute rutabaga)
- 20 or so 1- to 2-inch chunks of mushroom (cremini, button, shiitake tops)
- 1 14- or 22-ounce jar whole peeled tomatoes and its juices
- Bouquet garni constructed of 2 sprigs rosemary, 3-4 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves, tied (if available, tied inside a leek sheath or leaf)
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (or same quantity of 100% tart cherry juice)
- 2 cups beef broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pierce the meat in many places with the point of a small, sharp knife and insert into each opening a sliver of garlic; you should end up with several dozens of filled pockets. Lavishly salt and pepper both sides of the meat. In a large, oven-proof Dutch oven or casserole, and over a medium-high burner, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and sear the meat very well on both sides, browning and caramelizing it nicely, 5 minutes or more each side. Remove the meat to a plate off the heat.
Add the remaining oil and in it cook the carrots, onions, celery, kohlrabi (or rutabaga) and mushrooms, stirring well and scraping up any of the browned bits in the pot from the meat searing, 9-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. To the pot on the stove, add the tomatoes and their juices, crushing them with your hand as you do so, or using a potato masher when they are in the pot, so that they are well mashed or broken up. Stir them into the other vegetables and let the mixture thicken a bit, 2-3 minutes. Add the bouquet garni, the basil, the wine (or cherry juice), and the beef broth, stir it all up, scraping again, then lay the browned meat on top of the vegetables and flavorings, assuring that the liquid reaches up the sides of the meat but not over it. Bring the pot to a steady simmer on top of the stove.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 300 degrees and cook for 2 hours, turning the meat over every 30 minutes. After 2 hours, remove the cover of the pot and continue cooking in the oven for another 1 hour, not flipping the meat during this time so that its top obtains a nice dark crust.
To serve or finish: Remove the pot from the oven, tossing out the bouquet garni, and let it cool overnight in the refrigerator so that any fat will congeal and can be removed easily. (If you don’t time for an overnight rest — of the meat — try to remove as much fat from the top of the pot, skimming with a spoon.)
Remove the meat from the pot, let it set up for 15 minutes, then slice it thickly on the bias. If you wish the meat extra-warm, heat the slices in the pot with its vegetables, serving the slices with them, or purée or blend the vegetables into a thick sauce to serve alongside and atop the slices of meat and its sides.
Shopping for food?
Over the weekend, I checked out two places where I do a lot of my regular grocery shopping, but that are also off the grid for most folks. Consequently, they appear not to be suffering common present-day shortages. Except for toilet paper; it looks like everyone is out of toilet paper.
There are many grocery stores of their sort in Colorado, for example, Latino markets both large and small, many Asian markets, Indian markets, a smattering of Middle Eastern markets, and specialty or neighborhood markets such as Pete’s Fruits and Vegetables in Hilltop and the two Denver locations of Marczyk’s Fine Foods. I am not endorsing any food supplier over another, merely stating that food markets of all kinds pepper Colorado. I shop with regularity at these:
- The Aurora H Mart (2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora) was overflowing with vegetables (especially onions; man, do they have onions), many meats, and waves of fish and seafood. The canned items appeared in good supply and no worries about big bags of rice.
- Shamrock Foodservice Warehouse (460 S. Lipan St.) primarily serves the restaurant business (of which it is in sore need now) but also sells at retail anything that it stocks. Cheeses, vegetables, canned goods, flavorings, dried foods … everything. And Raquelitas tortillas, corn or flour, are the best.