Braised beef chuck roast. The comfiest of comfort dishes and easy to make in advance.
One of the best things about braising — it let’s you enjoy your own party. Braising is the older-than-dirt, low-temperature, high-moisture, covered-pot method for turning tough, less expensive cuts of meat like shoulders, shanks, short ribs, cheeks, brisket, chicken, and duck into velvety rich, tender bites. Unlike stew, braised meats cook in less liquid, producing a deep, rich sauce. Think pot roast.
These trendy braises are great examples of an economical, home-style comfort food that has trickled up to the restaurant and gotten tricked out by chefs. Braising frees up a cheater chef’s schedule, too. Cooking unattended, a braise lets you move onto other things, like get your sides dishes worked out, set your table, hide the skateboards, fix yourself up, or just get into your relaxed, great party host zone.
Braising needs only a regular oven and a good heavy pot with a lid (a Dutch oven, a Le Crueset or enamel-lined cast iron equivalent available everywhere). It’s about the method, not the meat, so the recipe works basically the same way with all cuts.
First, brown the meat in the pot over high heat on the stove. Then, after adding aromatic vegetables and herbs, chicken or beef stock, and/or wine to the pot, it cooks, covered, in a low oven for a few hours. Fall-apart tender braised meats offer lots of serving possibilities.
Restaurant menus during the winter months offer plenty of fancy beef short ribs, beef cheeks, osso bucco, and lamb shanks complemented by a starchy side like potatoes, pasta, gnocchi, polenta, grits, or beans, perfect for absorbing rich meaty juices. Add a contrasting simple wintery green like Brussels sprouts, chard or sautéed spinach. No highly seasoned or creamy sides are necessary because the braised meat is so tantalizing.
Braising is not performance cooking so you won’t be showing off your knife or sautéing skills. However, you also won’t be on the patio in the rain or sweating over a hot stove searing last minute high-heat steaks or chops while your guests are laughing and talking without you. To truly help yourself out, prepare the braise a day or two in advance to allow time for the flavors to meld. By separating the meat from the sauce and refrigerating overnight, the fat will congeal on the top of the sauce for easy removal.
Our cheater chef braise features a good old beef chuck roast, but you can easily substitute short ribs, beef shanks, lamb shanks, or other meats. Just be sure to cook the meat until fork tender. Alter the herbs and vary the liquids to change up the flavor. Red wine, great for cold weather braising, will produce a richer sauce than white. Remember, keep the sides simple and enjoy your own dinner party.
- 4 to 5 pounds beef chuck roast, beef shortribs, lamb shanks or beef shanks
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 big onions, cut into thin wedges
- 3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 big carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup dry white or red wine
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Heat the oven to 300° F (adjust the racks so a large ovenproof Dutch oven with a lid will fit easily). Sprinkle both sides of the beef chuck roast with salt and pepper and dust with flour.
- Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over high heat.
- Gently place the roast in the pot and sear until well-browned on both sides.
- Remove the roast to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium and carefully add the chopped vegetables, tomatoes, and garlic.
- Add the wine, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Return the meat to the pot.
- Cover the pot and place it in the oven to braise for about 4 hours, most importantly until the meat is fork tender. Braising time will vary according to your oven and the meat.
- Remove the cooked meat to a container to cool slightly, cover, and refrigerate. Then, strain the liquid in the pot through a sieve into another container, discarding the vegetables. Cover the sauce and refrigerate. When hardened, remove the fat from the top of the sauce with a spoon and discard.
- Combine the meat and sauce in a covered pot or casserole and place in a 300° F oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until well-heated throughout.