Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pot Roast and Noodles

I've done a previous post on Sunday Pot Roast Pot roast is one of those classic American dishes that I am always trying to perfect. Pot roast is a paradoxical dish: it contains the least expensive ingredients and the most expensive - time.

With the cold weather keeping us indoors it seemed like a good time for a roast and one on Nancy's favorite variations - home made noodles.

I started with a 2 pound chuck roast. The first step is to get a good browning sear on the meat. Add a bit of oil and heat the pot until the oil is starting to smoke. Brown the meat on both sides and any edge that will offer itself. Two to four minutes per side is enough.

Remove the meat, turn down the heat and add a Mirepoix, chopped onion, celery, and carrot. Stir the vegetables and let their water begin to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

When the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened, add a cup or more of cheap red wine. The acid in the wine will finish deglazing the pan. It all adds flavor and color to the gravy.

Cooking shows often say use a good wine, use a wine you would drink. At the same time wine experts tell us that wine must be kept at mild temperatures or their complex organic compounds will be destroyed. Exactly right, heating the wine will turn an expensive wine into cheap wine.

Return the roast to the pot and add a can of beef stock and enough water to cover about 75% or 80% of the meat. Put a top on the pot, but leave it slightly ajar. Put the pot in a cold oven.

Inexpensive cuts of meat are best cooked low and slow. I 've tried a variety of methods. Recently I read a book on the science of cooking. In describing the perfect braise the author pointed out that the final internal temperature of the meat should be 160 degrees F. To get there he suggests a slow oven, starting at 200 degrees for the first two hours and raising it to 250 for the next hour. The roast can be checked after that for temperature and donesness. The meat should be easily penetrated with a fork - fork tender in fact. The idea is to never let the interior temperature of the meat reach the boil - 212 degrees as that will release moisture and result in a dry roast. A slow cooker started on high and then turned to low would probably replicate this cooking scheme.

Once the roast is in the oven, it is time to start the noodles. The recipe for pasta is very simple. 3 parts flour to 2 parts eggs - all by weight. Some cooks can do it by the feel of the dough. Some recipes use volume measurements, but amounts of both flour and egg can vary quite a bit.

In recipes large eggs are often considered to be 2 ounces, but local eggs are are closer to 1.6 ounces.

A cup of flour may be 5 or 6 ounces depending on how it is packed. Using a scale with a tare feature makes it all easy. I added three eggs to my bowl for a total of 5 ounces. Next I added 1 and 1/2 that weight ( 7 1/2 ounces) in flour for a perfect 3 parts flour and two parts eggs.

Mix the ingredients until the dough forms. Knead the dough about ten minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and put in the refrigerator until the roast is nearly done.

When the roast is done, remove it from the oven. Let it cool a little in the braising liquid. The meat will re - absorb water as it cools.

Roll out the dough to a desired thickness. The flat dough can be rolled up and cut to make longer noodles. Put the noodles on a sheet of waxed paper.

Remove the roast to a plate and cover. Use a stick blender to puree the mirapox into the gravy. It will thicken the sauce. For this dish I cooked the pasta right in the gravy. Some of the starch from the noodles will add some additional thickness to the final dish.

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