We’re wrapping up harvest over here in Oregon Wine Country.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that harvest is a very special time for us. We all get to do what we love the most.
Rob gets to put his head down and just make wine – no sales trips, no meetings with the bank or worrying about a new health insurance policy. And making wine, after all, is his one true love. All the rest of it is just a necessary accessory to pursuing his greatest passion.
And I get to cook. Almost all the other parts of my job – event planning, committee meetings, sales trips are also put on hold. I cook dinner for our harvest crew and our family every night. It’s a lot of work, but I love it for so many reasons. I’ve written about those reasons here and here, but this is the short version: it really is the crux of our life. Building a strong community with good people over food and wine is perhaps the greatest antidote to the hardships of modern life. We do it all year-long with friends and family, but during harvest we break bread every day with the people who work alongside us to make our dreams a reality.
I tend to pull out the same batch of recipes to accomplish this mission, with a job like this you figure out what works and you stick with it. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to try new things too. I’ve got this captive audience here and they’re pretty forgiving (remember they’re generally so hungry they’d eat almost anything. The fact that they’re getting homemade food is a big bonus). Last night I made a roasted squash dish that was new to me. It had a sage and hazelnut pesto sprinkled over top and it was delicious. It will become a regular in my fall menus for sure. If you follow me Pinterest you’ll know that I’m actively collecting new ideas! (the recipe for the squash dish is here, by the way).
The other day I knew I wanted to get a head start and make something in the crockpot, so I could work in a late afternoon Cross Country meet for my 15-year-old and a piano lesson for my 11-year-old.
I also had a couple of hunks of meat that I’d just purchased, one was a chuck roast and as I perused a couple of my slow cooker themed cookbooks I settled on a Pot Roast. Funnily enough, I don’t think I’ve ever made a pot roast before. I’ve made hundreds of stews of course and BBQ brisket too. But never an honest to goodness, Sunday supper kind of pot roast. I don’t really know why, when when it’s such a logical choice to feed a crowd, but there it is.
Anyway, I knew most of all that I wanted it to be moist, so I researched several recipes in both cookbooks and on line looking for the best tricks and tips. By the time I’d done all of that, I was running out of time. The recipes for slow cooker pot roast all said they needed 8 to 9 hours on low for a really tender roast. Now I was too late for that window. Wait! Wasn’t Pot Roast the thing that grandmother’s used to put in the oven before church on Sunday and then return home a few hours later ready to feed the family? Well, that plan sounded like it would work. Stove top or oven Pot Roast only needs to cook for 4 hours. We were back in business!
This turned out to be a delicious pot roast with incredibly tender meat. I served it with mashed potatoes, naturally, and some garlicky sautéed spinach on the side. The whole meal received lots of rave reviews.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
- 3/4 cup each finely diced carrot, celery, turnip and onion
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4-5 pound boneless chuck roast (I like grass fed beef)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2-4 cups beef broth
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Warm the oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium heat. When it's hot, add the vegetables and sauté for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften and get a little brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for just another minute. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon from the pan and let them rest on a plate.
- Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Add a little more oil to the pan and brown the meat on all sides. Have patience, this will take as much as 15 minutes. You really want a nice brown crust on all sides.
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
- When the meat is browned, remove it to rest on a platter. Add the red wine to the pot and bring it to a boil. While it's bubbling, scrape up all the good brown bits in the bottom of the pot. Then return the vegetables to the pot and lay the meat on top. Now pour in enough beef broth to reach about half way around the roast. Tuck the herbs around the meat.
- Put the lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. You might check about halfway through the roasting time to make sure you're maintaining enough liquid in the pot. This wasn't a problem for me, but my pot was very heavy.
- The meat should be lovely and tender in about four hours. Remove it from the oven, lift the meat out of the pan and put it on a warmed platter. Cover it well with foil to keep it warm.
- At this point you can let the sauce sit for a few minutes and skim off any fat that accumulates. If you like you can put the pot on the stove and bring the sauce to a boil to reduce it. Do this only if you want it thicker. You might think the sauce is just fine as it is.
- After about 15 minutes of letting the meat rest cut it into chunks - likely it will be too tender to really slice. You can either pour the sauce over the meat on the platter, or put it in a small pitcher and let people drizzle it over top.