A Toast to the Roast

Andy Mueller

andy muelller | in the kitchen with chef andy | march 2018

The most defining trait comfort foods posses is not one of temperature or taste, and it certainly isn't about whether or not it took extreme effort to make. It's more about harmony than anything else. Not chorus line harmony or the teach-the-world-to-sing type of harmony but rather balance of flavor, texture, appearance and that warm-feeling-all-over kind of moment you get when it lands on the plate in front of you.

The flavors should be balanced, the textures complimentary and the spices subtly aromatic and as welcoming as a gracious host. The main ingredients are simply beef, venison or pork, potatoes, onions and carrots and a few proprietary additions you favor like wine, fresh herbs and stock. The main characters emit earthy undertones and need a little help to shine, but do not do well when bold flavors try to steal the show.

Things like garlic, rosemary, thyme or vinegar do provide a complex and often welcomed profile but need to be added with kid gloves as they can turn a thing of beauty into a beast if you are not careful. If you are going to push the flavor profile to the next spectrum of depth, try doing it without adding over-aggressive flavor enhancers, but rather by adding heat. A simple sear in the beginning can elevate the profile to gourmet proportions with minimal effort and maximum outcome.

Before you throw the roast into the crock and let it cook all day long, try a braising trick used by the pros to get depth and balance. By searing the roast in a hot pan with a little butter or oil, then de-glazing it with a bit of liquid, you get enormous amounts of background flavors from the brown bits that come up from the bottom of the pan. These little flavor buds, known as "fond," release themselves from the bottom of the pan when you add liquid and, as it cooks slowly, you'll find a new depth for your roast you maybe never thought you had available.

Burgundy Braised Beef or Venison Roast

In a large Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium to medium high heat add:

1 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

When the butter starts to bubble add:

1 3 to 4 lb. beef or venison roast lightly seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper

Cook until brown on one side (about five minutes). Carefully turn over and cook on the other side for about three to five minutes or until brown. Transfer roast to a plate, set aside. Turn the heat down to medium. Into the pot add:

1 onion, peeled, quartered

2 carrots, peeled, large cut

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Stir and cook for about five minutes. Then add:

2 cups dry red wine

Bring liquid to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, stir up all the bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the roast back into the pot, turn heat to medium then add:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Enough beef stock to cover the roast

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low. Cover and continue to simmer for about two and a half hours or until roast is fork tender. If you wish, you can thicken the sauce by mixing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water, then stir it into the pot of simmering juices. Remove roast and vegetables to a serving platter, discard the bay leaves. Drizzle the roast with the juice or thickened sauce. Enjoy!


Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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