Did you notice? Yes, the days are getting shorter, the nights longer and the temperature is dipping. Just in time comes a simple recipe for classic French pot roast to enjoy on a chilly night. Like our American pot roast, this dish differs in a specific way.
What’s the difference? Usually, water or broth is used instead of wine to slowly braise the meat, and often root vegetables are cooked with the classic Yankee pot roast. In this recipe, wine is used as the braising liquid. As with any slowly braised dish, this pot roast will benefit greatly in flavor if left to cool, refrigerated overnight, and gently reheated before serving. This also makes it easier to remove any excess fat. While you can cook it over the stove, I prefer to cook it in the oven to regulate the heat and evenly cook it.
While this is traditionally prepared with boneless beef chuck or the bottom round, I use brisket because I find it gives the most tender and flavorful result. The wine, vinegar and dried mushrooms help to develop an aromatic savory sauce.
Similar to the French “Daube,” this meltingly tender roast can be accompanied by some egg noodles tossed with defrosted petit pois, a little butter and some fresh chives. Or try it with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed spinach.
If you have time, roast some veggies like carrots, turnips and baby potatoes to serve alongside. Be sparing with the salt since there is bacon in the sauce. A full-bodied merlot or pinot noir would complement the savory braised beef.
French Pot Roast
- 1-ounce dried mushrooms like shiitake or morels
- 2 cups beef broth or water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 pounds beef brisket (first cut preferred) or boneless beef chuck, patted dry
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 slices bacon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish
1. Combine the mushrooms and broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat for 5 minutes. Cover and cool.
2. In a large nonstick Dutch oven or heavy flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Season the beef lightly with salt and pepper. Brown the beef, using heavy kitchen tongs to turn and brown all sides evenly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the beef to a side dish.
3. Add the remaining oil, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and bacon to the pan; saute for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the onions are brown and slightly caramelized, stirring to be sure not to let them burn. Add the carrots and saute 3 more minutes or until slightly softened.
4. Add the mushrooms and broth, wine, vinegar, garlic, herbs, and bay leaf to the pot and bring it to a boil. Return the beef to the pot, cover with some of the vegetables and reduce the heat until the liquid is at a simmer. Cook, on top of the stove, partially covered, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Maintain the heat so that the liquid is barely simmering and turn the roast several times during the cooking process. Alternatively, you can roast in a 325-degree preheated oven for about 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
5. Remove meat and place on a cutting board to rest for at least 15 minutes.
6. Remove the bay leaf and herb sprigs from the sauce. Taste for seasoning.
7. Slice the meat against the grain in 1/4-inch slices. Place the meat on a serving platter with a lip for the sauce or in a gratin dish. Spoon over the sauce. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
Advance preparation: This dish may be made up to three days completely ahead, covered and refrigerated. Reheat in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling.
This may also be well covered and frozen for up to two months. Defrost and reheat in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)