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Recipe : Tuscan Stye Pot Roast

Adapted from a recipe for Italian Pot Roast or ”Stracotto” in The Joy of Cooking. I used their technique of piercing holes in the roast and stuffing with a fresh herb paste to infuse the meat with flavor. I also added complexity with some aromatic spices in the tomato-based braising liquid. Many Italian Pot Roast recipes mention that it is almost always served with polenta, but I couldn’t resist the tender bite of some long linguine pasta paired with the meaty-rich tomato sauce. For an ultra-nutritious and lower-carb option, try serving over roasted spaghetti squash.

P.S.- The leftovers make great oven-toasted sandwiches. Split open a soft hoagie or kaiser roll, top one half with some of the sliced roast, and a bit of the tomato sauce. Top the other half with sliced mozzarella or provolone. Place open-faced on a baking sheet, on middle rack of oven, under the broiler until heated through and cheese is bubbling. Toss in a handful of chopped fresh arugula or spinach if you like.

INGREDIENTS

1. Using the garlic, and fresh herbs, either make a paste using a mortar and pestle, or very finely mince. Using a small paring knife, make about a dozen deep slits in the roast, and stuff with  about half of the herb mixture, setting the rest aside for later use. If necessary, wipe excess herbs from surface of roast with a paper towel, so they don’t scorch when you brown the roast. Sprinkle the roast on all sides with 1 tsp. kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

2. Heat a medium (5-quart), non-reactive dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and once heated, add the roast. Sear the roast until well-browned on all sides, monitoring the heat so that a nice brown crust (i.e. fond) forms in the pan without scorching. This may take up to 20 minutes.

3. Once browned, remove roast from pan, and set aside. Immediately add chopped onion, carrot, celery, and water. If you have some, sliced mushrooms would also make a nice addition. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan. Saute until vegetables are very soft, 7 to 10 minutes.

4. Add ground spices, red wine, and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and let bubble until liquid is reduced by half. Add crushed tomatoes and remaining fresh herb paste, and stir to combine. Nestle the roast into the sauce, spooning some of the liquid on top of roast. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to lowest setting possible while still maintaining a low and slow simmer.

5. For a small roast like this, it’s best to flip the meat about every 20 to 25 minutes. I used to think pot roast was done when the meat shredded easily with a fork, but by that point, the meat is not only stringy, but dry. The meat will be tender and more juicy if it is not cooked to the “shred” stage. A roast this size may be done in as little as 1 1/2 hours, but may take up to 2 1/2, so give yourself some leeway with dinnertime. The Joy of Cooking recommends testing for doneness by slicing 2 small pieces from end of roast. If the inner slice is firm-tender and a bit moist, the roast is done. There may even be some pink in the center of the roast.

6. If necessary, skim fat from top of cooking liquid once the roast is done. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the roast from the liquid, slice across the grain, 1/4-inch thick, and serve with polenta, potatoes, or pasta, and generous scoops of the sauce. A simple green salad and the rest of the red wine make lovely accompaniments to this soul-warming meal.