Blue Kitchen
Balsamic vinegar gives a classic pot roast with mushrooms a tangy flavor.

Beef pot roast with mushrooms

Already flavorful chuck roast gets a tangy, complex, umami boost with balsamic vinegar, and fresh and dried mushrooms.

For as much as we love meat, it plays a surprisingly non-starring role in our weeknight dinners. There may be the occasional braised chicken thigh or pan-seared pork chop, but more often, meat is a flavoring device. A little Italian sausage in a pasta sauce – a half pound stretched across four servings (two dinners). Some ground lamb with white beans and kale. A scattering of pepperoni slices on a takeout pizza.

So by the time the weekend rolls around, we are ready for a full-on carnivorous experience, something requiring sharp knives and chewing. Entire roast chickens, store-bought or homemade. Steaks so rare a good vet could save them, as Marion says. Or beef pot roast, that most heavenly of cheap cuts, big-flavored and versatile, ready to take on flavors of cuisines from all over the globe and to give up most (but not all) of its chewiness with long, low braising.

Saturday, after an intense morning and afternoon of errands that included getting a bulky 104-pound purchase into our little car and then out of our car and up to our second-floor apartment, we found ourselves staring at the butcher counter in a lovely new-to-us supermarket. In full meat mode, we left with a steak and a pot roast. I cooked the steak for dinner one night, and Marion made the amazing pot roast you see above the next. Here’s what she did.

Tangy Pot Roast with Mushrooms
 Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup dried mushrooms (I used a mix of dried porcini and bolete)
2-1/2 pound chuck roast, at room temperature
olive oil
salt, pepper
4 ounces small fresh mushrooms, halved
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced, about 3 tablespoons
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup beef stock, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl with 1/2 cup hot water and let soak while you prep other ingredients.

2. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Heat the olive oil in a big heavy skillet (one with a tight-fitting lid). Brown the meat on each side, about 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Wipe the pan, then add more olive oil. Arrange the halved mushrooms, cut side down, and sauté, turning, until the mushrooms are starting to color. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Add more olive oil to the pan, then add in the sliced onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin turning golden, about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and carrots and sauté another minute. Add the tarragon, bay leaves, balsamic vinegar, red wine, tomato paste and sugar. Stir everything and simmer it gently for two or three minutes.

5. Return the chuck roast to the pan, then add the sautéed mushrooms. Take the formerly dried mushrooms from their soaking liquid and add them to the pan. Filter out and discard any solids or sands from the soaking liquid and add the liquid into the pan too. The level of liquid around the meat should be about half way up, maybe a little higher. If not, top up with beef stock and stir everything together.

6. Bring everything to a boil, then cover tightly. Slide the pan into the oven and set a timer for an hour. After an hour, remove from the oven, uncover and turn the meat. Return it to the oven for another hour. After that hour, the meat should be nice and fork-tender (and your home will be full of that suave braising aroma). If the meat doesn’t seem quite ready yet, return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Serve.

7. We had this with mashed potatoes, because mashed potatoes. It would also be swell with wide buttered noodles. The next night, we had leftovers of this sliced thin and rolled up in corn tortillas — also heaven.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Slow cooker pot roast with carrots

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