Saturday morning over coffee, the evenings pending dinner menu discussion changed from pot roast to chili then circled back to pot roast again before landing back at chili. So, I decided to pick up a versatile chuck roast from, of course, Herman’s Quality Meats. Bundled up and indecisive, we made a short trek over to Newark to pick up supplies. We walked through the wintery raindrops from the back parking lot of Herman’s and stepped inside the uncommonly empty butcher shop, with a subtle, summery smell like warm iron coaxing us to step up closer to the counter and out of the nipping rain. The true warmth of the shop radiates from the immediate smiles and hellos bouncing joyously off the owner, Chris, and her charming two man crew behind the counter. They offer this genuine, Southern-like welcome all while effortlessly breaking down short ribs, whole chickens, and an array of other carnivorous delights without missing a beat, or should I say, slice?
After we were welcomed, I let Chris know I wanted a 3lb chuck and she gracefully disappeared to collect my order from the back of the shop. Since I don’t mind breaking the chuck down into cubes myself, I didn’t even think to clarify to her that the roast was for chili. Being the incredibly thorough butchers they are at Herman’s, she asked me if I was putting the chuck in the slow cooker later in the afternoon, while simultaneously and expertly trussing it for me at the same time. Looking at her beautiful handy work, I sheepishly answered that it was for chili. I saw the slightest and completely warranted twinge of irritation sweep over her for a millisecond and then just as quickly I was asked if it they could break it down into cubes for me instead. I let them know I didn’t mind breaking it down myself and even if I had, I would never on my life have asked her to untruss that roast.
First of all, trussing like she does takes a hell of a lot of skill, which I do not possess yet, and secondly, it was on me for not clarifying my intent with the roast in the first place. After I had reassured them to leave it trussed, she wrapped the roast up in butcher paper and walked around to the register. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to confess, “In all honesty, it may end up as a pot roast anyway. We’ve been going back and forth trying to decide.” Then Amy unexpectedly chimed in with, “Well, really it’s me that’s been going back and forth about what I want. Chili? Roast? Chili? I dunno” So we all chuckled a bit at that and finished up our order by adding on a slab of Applewood smoked bacon and a dozen fresh brown eggs. We thanked them again and a round of warm wishes followed us out the door. As we scurried back to the car trying in vain to dodge the cold raindrops, our paper bag of carnivorous goodies protectively clutched in Amy’s arms, I concluded, “I’m pretty sure that was a sign that I should do a roast tonight.”
Braised Chuck Roast
1 3lb Chuck Roast
1 cup of Red Wine
1 bottle dark Mexican Beer
1 cup Vegetable or Beef stock
1 large turnip, trimmed, peeled, and chopped
1/4 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, chopped
4 stalks Celery, chopped
1 Sweet Onion, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Portobello Mushrooms, chopped
Herb Bundle: Rosemary, Thyme & Lavender
3 cloves Black Garlic
1/4 tsp Raw Sugar
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Spanish Paprika
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Over med high flame, heat a cast iron skillet until it is very hot. Season the chuck roast on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear the chuck in the skillet on all sides until a golden crust is formed, about 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the roast to a cutting board and if desired, slather a generous amount of Dijon Mustard on all sides of the roast. Set aside.
In the same skillet, add the wine and Mexican beer and deglaze the skillet, stirring up all the fond from the bottom of the pan. Drop in the herb bundle and once simmering, turn off the flame. Set aside.
In a slow cooker set on high, add in the remaining vegetables and seasonings. Nestle the seared roast in the center of the vegetables and pour over the herb bundle, wine/beer sauce from the skillet. Next add in enough water to keep the vegetables from touching the sides of the slow cooker, as they will scorch. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper, cover and cook on high until the roast is fall-apart tender, about 3 to 6 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Check occasionally to ensure there is enough liquid in the slow cooker to keep the vegetables from scorching.
Once the roast is done to your liking, remove it to a cutting board and allow it to rest. Meanwhile, remove the herb bundle and discard. With an Immersion Blender, puree the vegetables and stock directly in the slow cooker (using a guard if needed). Continue to puree, adding a bit of water as needed until a gravy is formed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Remove the butcher twine from the roast and discard. Slice the roast in to individual portions and serve with rice (or side of choice) and gravy.
Honey Thyme Carrots
6 to 8 Carrots, trimmed and sliced on the bias
2 – 3 sprigs fresh Thyme, leaves removed from stems (stems discarded)
1 – 2 tsp Raw Honey, or to taste
2 tabs Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter, honey, and thyme leaves together in a microwave safe dish or in a small saucepan on the stove until the butter is just melted. Stir until the honey is completely incorporated.
In a casserole dish, toss the carrots in the herbed honey butter until evenly coated. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until fork tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Serve immediately.