Over the winter, I learned to appreciate beef. Not that I ever remember a time when I didn’t enjoy eating it, but it has never been something that I’ve chosen to cook at home. I was always much more attracted to pork as a meat because it’s more of a chameleon – you can transform pork into all kind of interesting things, like sausages, charcuterie, pulled pork, BBQ…. but beef? Beef always tasted good on its own, which in my convoluted mind made it too uninteresting to cook.
Nevertheless, last fall we got an e-mail from Rupert Jannusch and Heather Johnson at Ironwood Farm mentioning that they had some grass-fed beef for sale. We’ve been Ironwood CSA members for a few years, so we decided to take the plunge an buy a 50 pound box of mixed cuts of grass-fed beef with a great assortment of ground beef, stew meat, steaks and roasts.
Since I’m a full time student and my partner has several jobs on the go, we’re pretty busy people, and we need to live pretty frugally. I’ve made a new discovery about beef: pot roasts are one of the best frugal weekly meal-planning concepts EVER.
Most of the roasts we received were around 5 or 6 pounds. By making a pot roast on Sunday night, you start off the week with a nice meal. The leftover roast can be sliced thinly for sandwiches all week. The bits of leftover meat that are hard to cut into nice slices get turned into beef and barley soup with the leftover broth.
Pot roasts are generally made from tougher cuts of beef, usually cut from the shoulder. A long, slow braise in tasty liquid softens up the connective tissue, dissolves the intramuscular fat, and makes the meat very tender. Rather than using a strict recipe, I’ve learned the basic rules, and then modified my flavours from there.
Recipe Method for Pot Roast
Add some oil to a hot pan, and brown the roast on all sides. For the roast pictured here, I cut slits into the meat and stuck whole small cloves of garlic inside, then browned the meat. Some recipes call for covering the roast in a bit of flour and seasoning before browning, which is a great idea if you’re wanting a roast with a slightly thickened sauce, but I was going for a different flavour this time, so I covered the browned roast with some Dijon mustard mixed with some Montreal steak spice.
Place the meat into a roaster, and tuck in as many peeled potatoes, onions and carrots (turnips, celery, or parsnips would taste great too) as you can fit around the meat. Now you want to add about a cup of braising liquid. For this roast, I used a mixture of red wine and veggie bouillon because it’s what I had on hand and I thought it would taste nice with the mustard, but I’ve also used canned tomatoes, and beef broth with a bit of brandy. As long as it’s tasty and savoury, it’ll do the trick!
Slap a lid on the roaster, and throw it in a 300 degree oven, and let it bake for a few hours – it should be done in 3 hours or so – or until tender. Steam some green veggies, and you’ve got Sunday dinner for two!
Once the meat cools, it is quite easy to cut into slices for sandwiches for our brown-bag lunches. The rest of the bits of meat, broth, and the potatoes and carrots get saved for soup…. but that’s a story for another blog post!