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It’s ridiculous to say, but the biggest obstacle in my quest to eat more healthy foods that have a lower impact on the planet is my love of meat. Big hunks of red meat, in particular.
It seems as though when my diet consists mainly of vegetables, grains, beans, eggs and poultry, there always comes a day when I just have to have some meat.
Sometimes the craving can be satisfied by the flavor and very little of the actual meat. A beef noodle soup, for example, or a stir-fry or fajitas or a salad topped with a bit of grilled meat can take care of it. But then there are days when all I want is pot roast.
Pot roast is basically a long, slow braise of a tough but flavorful cut of beef (my memere would have used pork). The slow cooking breaks down all the resilient, connective tissue that characterizes these cuts – chuck, brisket, shoulder – resulting in tender, succulent meat and a very rich, gelatinous broth. The vegetables – such as carrots, turnips, onions and potatoes – that are often cooked along with the meat, both add to and take up the dark flavor of the broth. So that meat flavor, the thing that I crave, is everywhere.
I love to serve pot roast with pureed cauliflower. Just break apart a head of cauliflower into individual florets that are all about the same size. Steam them until they are tender, until they can be easily pierced with a dinner fork. Throw the cooked florets into a food processor with a hunk of butter and some salt and pepper, then serve the puree as you would mashed potatoes.
I like to pile the puree in a big bowl and surround it with some of the beef and lots of the vegetables that cooked alongside the meat, then drench everything with those amazing cooking juices. Add a hunk of crusty bread for sopping up what you can’t get with your spoon and you have a meal that would satisfy any carnivore.
And with so much meat flavor, I can satisfy my craving without eating a lot of the meat.
This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s website, where the lovely and charming Sarah Carey provides a video cooking demonstration using brisket. But really, the recipe is so simple, it practically cooks itself.
Slow-Cooker Pot Roast
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 medium carrots, cut into thirds
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 beef chuck roast (3 pounds), or 1 3-pound beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or balsamic or sherry vinegar, or red wine)
In a slow cooker, stir together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water until smooth. Add carrots and onions; season with salt and pepper; place meat on top of vegetables and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. Cover; cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 10 hours.
Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice across the grain. (In different sections of the roast, the grain will run in different directions, so pay attention and always slice across the grain for maximum tenderness.) Place vegetables in a serving dish; pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. (I skip this step, but I do skim off as much fat as possible - there’s lots of it – from the top of the juices.) Serve roast with vegetables and pan juices.
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