A Toast to the Roast

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | april 2019

There are few things in the culinary world that can warm your soul simply by mentioning them. Chicken soup, apple pie fresh out of the oven and a piping hot bowl of chili are a few, but none can compare, in my world, to the slow-cooked comfort of roast beef. Stew it, braise it or simply throw it in the crock-pot, let it simmer for hours and you've got yourself some deep-down-to-the-soul kind of comfort.

Is it the aromas that fill the air, or maybe it's the anticipation of knowing that you can't have it for a few hours that builds inside of you, teasing you with its olfactory assault, leaving you with visions of beefy bliss as you wait patiently for that timer to off. The word I use is harmony. In a culinary sense, it is a word that is often forgotten but is paramount to a good dining experience. If one flavor stands out more than others, harmony has eluded you. If the ingredients are of the highest quality, and the balance of flavors is apparent, and the stars align, you've achieved it, and that's the goal every chef should have.

Typically, the roast is from a bottom round, chuck or sirloin but you can use brisket, blade or any cut that has a nice ratio of fat to meat. Remember, fat is flavor and the grade and quality of meat is judged by its fat content. Prime grade beef, the highest common grade, is going to have more fat than choice grade, the next best, and choice will have more fat than select grade and this decreasing fat content follows all the way down through canners, cutters and utility grades as well.

It's not necessary to use the prime grade when cooking a roast because the slow cooking can make a choice grade, or even select grade quite beautiful. You won't see many grades below select in the grocery store because those cuts are used for different applications and not fit for friend nor foe.

The roast should display "flecks" of fat throughout the meat. They are the tiny striations of fat that are dispersed within the meat. Bottom line here is the leaner the cut, the tougher it will be.

To really add flavor to the roast, sear it first before it goes in the oven or the crock-pot. When meat is seared over fairly high heat, it will brown, seal in the juices and develop what's called "fond." Loosely translated to mean "bottom," it's what's left in the bottom of the pan after you remove the meat. This "fond" is as good as gold when it comes to the harmony you seek. These caramelized bits of culinary magic add depth to the profile and bring all the other ingredients to the next level after simmering for a while. Try your hand at this basic beef roast recipe and experiment with adding your own flavors to create classic comfort that makes your soul shine – enjoy!

Andy's Basic Beef Roast

Turn your crock-pot on high.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat add:

2 tablespoons butter

When butter bubbles and just starts to brown add:

One 3 to 5-pound chuck or other nicely marbled roast that has been seasoned generously with salt and pepper.

Sear the meat for about 3-5 minutes per side until it is nicely browned.

Carefully remove the roast from the pan, transfer it to the crock-pot. Turn the pan you seared the meat in to low then add:

1 cup red wine

As the wine hits the pan it will start to loosen up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Use a wooden flat edge spatula to gently assist the wine in lifting the fond from the bottom. Add this wine/fond to the crock-pot. Now add:

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups beef stock

1 cup chicken stock

2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 celery stalk, cut into large chunks

Cook on high for 1 hour.

Using a ladle, remove about 1 cup of liquid from the pot and pour it into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons flour to the liquid and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture back into the pot. This will add integrity to the sauce and tighten it up a bit. Turn pot to low and continue to cook for 6-8 hours or until meat is fork tender. Serve with mashed potatoes and pour a little sauce over the top of everything. 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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