Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pot Roast Fra Diavolo

Welcome to the Pedestrian Palate.  This blog is all about my attempts to become a better cook and a more adventurous eater.  I will be writing about the restaurants and bars that I visit and I will be  cooking and sharing recipes that I come up with.  In addition, I will write about my experiences cooking recipes that I find in books and online.   All of this is aimed at upping my game as a home cook and broadening my palate, which, I'm not gonna lie, would have been very happy if Hostess never went out of business.

Being that this is my first introduction to you, I figured that I'd start off with a recipe of my own.  As a somewhat improvisational cook, I am learning to stop and write things down so that they become repeatable.  My first public offering of one of my written recipes follows below.  Please read on as I share my adventures in Pot Roast. There's always room at my table.

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Adventures in Pot Roast:

Today is my brother's birthday, so I am making him a Pot Roast for dinner.  For as long as I can remember, we have had Pot Roast on my brother's birthday as it is indeed one of his favorite meals.  Unfortunately, it is not one of mine.  Because of this, I have been tinkering with my recipe to address the things about i that I don't like.  I belive that this recipe addresses those things.  These are some of my changes:

1) No Carrots - sacriledge, I know.  Every Pot Roast recipe has carrots.  Well, guess what? Not mine! I have removed them from the mix.   Carrots add a sweetness and flavor to the gravy that I just don't like.  If I want sweetness, I will get it more directly from maybe a shot of golden syrup, a little aged balsamic vinegar or a spoonful of brown sugar.  Carrots can bite me.

2) I have sometimes skipped the browing step -  Why would I do this? I dunno, I have in the past out of pure laziness or stupidity, but no more.  There will be fond.  Oh yes there will.

3) Savory flavors - Pot roast has never satisfied that craving for something deeply rich, savory and flavorful.  I have set out to inject as much flavor into the mix as I can.  I do this with a combination of dried and fresh herbs and a gaggle of tasty liquids in the pot.  What?  You don't like the word gaggle?
Not unlike the carrot, you too can bite me.

This recipe can scale as necessary and if you feel strongly about it, add some carrots. What the hell, it's your roast (I will, of course make fun of you behind your back.  Live with it.).

Fra Diavolo Pot Roast

Serves 8
Oven at 275 degrees

1  4 - 5 lb bottom round roast
1 1/2 teaspoons * Profumo Del Chianti  - or 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 a large red onion -medium dice
2 or 3 ribs of celery (enough to be equal with the amount of onions) - medium dice
3 medium to large garlic cloves, crushed under the blade of a knife
2 Tablesoons Tomato Paste
1 cup of a hearty red wine.  I like Chianti, you can use any dry red that you like to drink, drunkie
1 25 ounce jar prepared fra diavolo sauce (or make your own if you insist on showing off)
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth (refer to snide remark above)
1 4 inch sprig of fresh thyme
1 6 inch sprig of fresh rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons of an Italian Seasoning Blend
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (Or to taste.  Heat is a very personal thing.)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven over medium high heat. Season the roast on all sides with the Profumo Del Chianti or salt and pepper.   Sear the meat on all sides being sure to develop a nice brown crust around the roast.  Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and celery.  Saute until the veggies soften and the edges start to turn golden brown.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add tomato paste and cook that for another 30 seconds or so.

Deglaze the pot with wine, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the roast to the pan and fill up with the fra diavolo sauce and broth until the meat is aprox three quarters of the way submerged.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring the pot to a gentle simmer.  Once the pot comes to a slow bubble, cover the pot and put it in the pre-heated oven.

Cook for 5 or 6 hours or until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat to a platter and tent it with aluminum foil.  While the meat is resting, skim the fat from the gravy and pass it through a strainer.  Return the strained gravy to the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the gravy by half and taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.  You can thicken the gravy with a slurry if you want it thicker or use it as is if the thickness is to your liking.  There will be plenty of gravy, so slice the roast and serve it with mashed potatoes or egg noodles or anything that will sop up the tasty gravy. 

*Ok, so what is Profumo Del Chianti?  My short answer is - it's a miracle.  A revelation. It is the most spectacular tasting, perfectly balanced salt and seasoning blend, made by this brilliant madman.  It is a tiny little jar of genius.  A blend of fennel pollen, sea salt, bay, rosemary, thyme and who knows what else, ground to a fine powdery consistency.  It is so fine and powdery that you may be tempted to snort it.  Resist this temptation at all costs as it burns like a mother...or so I've been told.

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