I grew up in cattle country, but steak and roasts weren’t meals I can recall eating at home. Ya’ know that red wrapped log of ground chuck from Walmart? Yeah, that’s the kind of beef my parents could afford for dinner. Meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, stuffed peppers, Hamburger Helper, and freezer burritos were staples in my mother’s kitchen, as she could squeeze an unnatural amount of meals out of one log of ground beef. Necessity demanded it, and fortunately for us my mother was an expert at stretching out her meager monthly food allowance. Occasionally, we enjoyed overcooked buffet steak, fajitas, or brisket but only on special occasions.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started cooking steaks and roasts at home. My spouse started requesting these meals, as she was accustomed to eating red meat regularly. Before moving to the East Coast, my diet was more of the Lean Pocket/Raman variety, and so, at first, with the cost of the filet mignon and roasts she wanted, I was incredibly intimidated cooking with these ingredients. My nerves would get all frazzled and I’d beat myself up for even the smallest of errors, like medium instead of medium rare or not enough salt. After some time, as with most things, I got passed the initial intimidation I felt and, with practice, finally relaxed enough to enjoy preparing seared steaks, briskets, and roasts at home whenever requested.
Nowadays, as with this recipe, I toss a nice roast in the oven (mostly on autopilot) and then don’t think about it again for three hours. Tuned out or not, I still very much appreciate my humble childhood and the lessons of frugality I learned, especially now that my life is so blessed. The memories help ground me in gratitude and keep me from taking my privileges for granted. Because, the ability to buy a well marble hunk of beef on a whim that my wife is craving is a privilege, especially right now when so many have lost their income to the Covid crisis.
With that said, chuck roast is pretty affordable, and, in my opinion, too often passed over. Since I grew up eating it ground, chuck roast is a cut of beef I really enjoy. It’s a taste of elevated nostalgia for me. Plus, it’s super easy to cook with and has great flavor. I’ve broken it down for stews and chili too, as it’s that versatile. Go ahead and grab whichever cut of roast you prefer, however. Mix and match the vegetables and herbs too until the dish smells and tastes like your version of home. Winter is coming, stressors are overwhelming all of us, and affordable comfort meals are so essential right now. Hopefully, this recipe will bring you as much nourishment (soulful, nostalgic, and otherwise) as it did for us.
4 lb-ish chuck roast
2 large turnips, trimmed, peeled, rough chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Portobellos, quartered
4 – 6 gloves garlic, skin removed, trimmed, left whole
12 – 15 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 cup water or stock
generous amount of salt and black pepper
Set the chuck roast on a clean surface. Generously salt and pepper all sides. Set aside and allow to reach room temperature for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees on the Roast setting, if available.
Heat a large Dutch Oven over high flame. Once hot, sear the chuck roast on all sides, 3 – 5 minutes per side. Set aside on a clean surface.
In the same Dutch Oven, deglaze the pan with the water/stock then add the herbs and vegetables. Nestle the roast back inside the Dutch Oven, cover with the lid, and carefully transfer to the oven. Cook about three hours, checking at the halfway mark, and adjust cooking time as required until an internal temperature of at least 190 degrees is reached.
Once the roast is very tender and easily falls apart, break the roast down into individual portions. Discard the bay leaf, thyme & rosemary stems and serve the roast with the braised vegetables along with your favorite side such as polenta, rice, dinner rolls, or mashed potatoes.