Sunday, October 21, 2007

World's Greatest Pot Roast

The dish J. and I call World's Greatest Pot Roast isn't a pot roast at all. More accurately it is my candidate for the World's Easiest Short Ribs, but the recipe started as one for pot roast and then morphed into the meat and method I use today.
Years ago I read a few lines in Laurie Colwin's "More Home Cooking" about chuck steak -- the preferred pot roast cut in my mother's and grandmother's kitchens. I remembered their fussing with carrots and onions and a bay leaf or two, but Colwin was saying I had no need for all that: "Get a large very thick chuck steak from the butcher," she wrote. "Take this steak and put it into a large baking dish. Season it with salt and pepper and cover it very tightly with tin foil. Stick it in a 275-degree oven and leave it for six hours."
So I did, and it was good. And God knows it was easy. But as the years went by and beef got younger and leaner, the once reliably streaky chuck roasts no longer seemed as succulent, no matter how low-and-slow they cooked. J. and I began fork-dueling for the meat closest to the bone, relegating the rest to unloved leftovers.
Then one day I spotted some beautifully marbled, thick English short ribs at the butchers' counter and decided to cook them via Colwin's method.

I found they didn't need six hours--more like three to four. But oh, sweet memories of childhood, this was marvelous meat, needing only a few spoonfuls of the pan juice, a generous lashing of chopped parsley and a side dish of creamy horseradish. Usually I accompany it with a salad of sliced radicchio dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and crumbled blue cheese or feta.
In summary: Make sure the short ribs are at least two-inches thick. Brush a heavy baking dish with olive oil, nestle in the ribs in a single layer, sprinkle on generous amounts of salt and pepper and cover the dish *tightly* with foil. Place in a 275-degree oven. (Make sure your oven doesn't run hot; many self-cleaning ones do.)
Start checking them after two hours or so, but there is absolutely no need to baste. If I start these early enough in the day, I usually reduce the heat to 250-degrees after the first hour, as I think slower and longer gives a better result. After the initial check-in, I peek at them every half hour or so, stabbing a piece with a sharp fork. They should be almost-falling-off-the-bone tender, but not mushy. I never try to have these finish precisely at dinner time, but aim for at least an hour ahead and then re-heat them just before serving.

This is a dish I make only when the weather turns cooler. Because each portion includes three chunky bones, our Border Collies enthusiastically endorse its return to the repertoire.


Lydia said...

It's a freakish 75 degrees here in RI today, but with the promise of cooler weather later in the week, I'm printing this recipe to keep on hand!

katiez said...

They're gorgeous! And the ribs look nice too! Bones for the puppies? How kind!

Luisa said...

Oh, wow - what a great way to cook! I will have to try this sometime very soon. Love the idea of your salad alongside.

ParisBreakfasts said...

Those are two very gorgeous doggies Casey! I don't how youcould leave home without them?
I may have found a new love...
Please show more.

Merisi said...

I had to come over from Carol's to check how you managed to work your dogs into a food post and then I saw your head line: "World's Greatest Pot Roast"! My heart stood still. Did she? Did she really? I scrolled down, oh no, those delicate looking bones in the pot! I held my breath and scrolled further down. There they were, safe and sweet and enjoying life.
That really was a cliffhanger, I think I need to take Max for a walk around the block, to calm down.

lmc said...

your dogs are so cute!

i have never cooked short ribs; these look great and easy. I'm not sure i have the right baking dish though.

Gorgeous Things said...

I'm very late to this party, but that recipe looks wonderful! It's coolish here in Boston today, so I may try this tonight! The short ribs look so yummy.

And being the proud owner of Hoover, a Border Collie mix (we think with Golden retriever, but we can't be sure), I LOVE your dogs!

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