Grassfed Pot Roast
December 18th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Posted in Recipes, Sustainability
I hadn’t really known until recently, but the best reason to purchase grassfed beef over conventional may be pot roast.
This big piece of chuck was delivered from our dairy, South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, Maryland, which keeps a herd of beef cattle in addition to its dairy cows. The first thing you notice is the deep, red color. You’ll also notice less marbeling. Grassfed, or pastured, beef is leaner. It’s healthier because the fat it passes on to the eater is not the omega-6 variety from corn and soy that feedlot beef are fed but more beneficial omega-3 fats from it’s diet of mostly grass.
If you’ve been paying attention to the modern food movement, you know that cattle are ruminent animals, meaning they are built with a complex stomach for digesting grass and other cellulosic material. They were not meant to eat corn or soybeans, nor were they designed to be jammed together by the thousands in tight quarters, standing ankle deep in their own feces. That’ s a modern, industrial innovation called a “Confined Animal Feedlot Operation,” or CAFO.
Raising meats on pasture has the added benefit of being much friendlier toward the environment.
The next thing you’ll notice about your grassfed pot roast is the incredibly rich flavor. I braised this one for six hours and still I found myself using a steak knife to cut it. It was tender, with an intensely beefy flavor. Pot roast so often comes out dry and stringy. In the past, when we were still cooking with conventional beef, we had great results cooking pot roast as a traditional Jewish cholent, with barley and pink beans. But since we no longer eat starchy carboyhdrates, I reverted to the more common method of braising the meat in broth. The results couldn’t have been better.
An hour ahead, season a thick piece of beef chuck agressively with salt and pepper. This one is three inches thick and weighed nearly four pounds. In a heavy pot or Dutch oven coated with oil (I used bacon grease) brown a thick piece of beef chuck on both sides. Then surround the meat with aromatic vegetables cut into pieces: onion, carrot celery, garlic. Add a few sprigs of parsley, a small handful of fresh thyme sprigs, a couple of bay leaves and a few peppercorns. Pour in your favorite stock until it reaches about two-thirds up the side of the meat. Beef or chicken stock will work. I used a turkey stock I already had on hand from Thanksgiving. Stir in a teaspoon or two powdered ginger and a teaspoon or two paprika.
Bring the pot to a boil on the stove, then place it, well covered, in a 225-degree oven and leave it alone. You may want to check on it every couple of hours and ladle some of the liquid over the top. Cooking it this slowly, it will take five hours at least. To know when it’s done, you can plunge a turkey trussing skewer deep into the middle of the meat. If it feels almost hot, you’re there. Or, cut off a bit of meat and try it. Your grassfed pot roast will probably not fall apart like the pot roast you are used to.
The resulting broth from the pot, now rich with beef flavor, I served as a first-course soup in wide, shallow bowls. Then I served the beef. Try it with some horseradish. We happened to have a container of horseradish cream sauce in the fridge from catering a party. That was an unexpected bonus. In the days that followed (you’ll have lots of wonderful leftovers from this roast) I sauced the roast with a wine reduction that I found in the fridge as well. That was incredible. And if you’re eating mashed potatoes, by all means go for it. My preference would be our favorite caramelized sweet-and-sour Brussels sprouts.
For more great stories about how we are taking back our food system, check Fight Back Friday.