No Sharks in the Tank, Please.

I watched the investors react to the explanation of Sous Vide on that recent Shark Tank episode, featuring Abe and Lisa Fetterman from Nomiku. We’re long time friends, and I’ve been using their circulator(s) for about four years, maybe even longer. The investors weren’t all completely ignorant of the technology, but one of them did balk at the idea of inserting an extra step into the process of just grilling a good steak.

This happens, once people realize that Sous Vide isn’t about putting an onion and bag and pouring out French Onion soup an hour later. Syzygizing and coordinating SV with traditional methods is something that people struggle with the ebb and flow of. Time components notwithstanding, SV might be the primary component of a particular procedure, but other times it appears to have been inserted gratuitously.

And so it is with Beef Pot Roast. It’s easy to imagine that the utilization of SV will help achieve the desired tenderness in a low cost cut of meat. But how do you achieve that rich brown color that we remember from the pictures on the TV Dinners in the frozen food case? My Mother was a great woman, but her pot roast never came out looking like those pictures. The Stouffer’s dinners inside those foil trays didn’t look like that either, but the commercials made it look absolutely fabulous. I do remember the 60’s versions of the dish utilizing electric frying pans with those cheap handles that always broke off. The low cost thermostats weren’t very sensitive, so, rather than achieving a consistent simmer, the contents of the pan would oscillate between a furious, scorching boil and a basic “off” position. Not exactly set it and forget it.

Pot Roast is a State of Mind.

Anyway, most fans of the  dish expect the pot roast to be thoroughly Maillard/caramelized as the first step in the recipe, after which some sort of braising liquid is introduced to the vessel, the colloquial “Dutch Oven.” As a side note, cast iron should never be used to do anything but brown the meat for the pot roast — adding water based liquids into cast iron pans encourages oxidation of the metal, introducing rust into your sauce.

There’s nothing preventing us from pre-searing meat before SV processing, but we don’t usually do it with steaks because the crust dissolves during processing. This makes it necessary to sear again after removing the steak from the bag. But in the case of the pot roast, that dissolution will contribute to the color and flavor of the culmination. So that’s what one of the things we’re going to do. Couple of other things too, to create that sensational appearance, along with the deep bodied flavor this dish should provide.

Ingredients:

  • Beef chuck, bottom round, rump, top round, eye of round, sirloin tip, or anything solid that you can find in that <$5/lb. price range.
  • Onions, 1 each, peeled.
  • Celery, 3 ribs, 4 ribs, 5 ribs, whatever ya got. Nobody is going to say “too much celery,” OR, “where’s the celery?”
  • Carrots, 2 each, peeled, unpeeled, whatever, as long as they’re not discolored, the peel will disappear, as we will see.
  • Tomato paste, 1 six ounce can, or, canned tomato sauce, 1 twelve oz. can, or even some ketchup, if you want to go Mom and Pop.
  • Really, it’s okay.
  • Peas, some.
  • Noodles. Cooked Noodles.

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  • Here we have your basic Chuck steak that you see in a lot of stores.
  • It is sometimes called a Chuck Under Blade.
  • Beef chuck is a huge portion of a steer’s flesh weight, as much as 20%.
  • This cut has a lot of connective tissue, and the beefy flavor to go with it.
  • It used to be “cheap,” these days it hovers somewhere under $6/lb. most places we shop.
  • It is the prototypical cut for pot roast, juicier in completion than top round, and similar but a little bit preferable to bottom round for my taste.
  • A lot of guys trim off the connective tissue on the outside, but, well, I don’t.

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  • Pan temperature is one of the things that people stumble on right out of the gate.
  • The pan needs to be hot enough to force the moisture in the meat UP into the air, rather than allowing it to pool in the pan.
  • If pooling occurs, the water prevents the meat from browning, and you get, well, you know what you get.
  • The pan should be about 350F, but that can be hard to detect.
  • Even infrared thermometers “bounce” off of the shiny surface and give you a false reading sometimes. So, here’s what I do.
  • Heat the pan, on medium high, and do a couple of things that don’t take long.
  • Take some stuff out of the fridge, take a sip of coffee, wipe off a counter, put a couple of dishes in the dishwasher, etc.
  • Hold your hand ABOVE the pan, see if you can tell.
  • After a few more minutes, add some oil.
  • It should run and look suddenly a little thinner.
  • Cool. Er, hot, actually.
  • Put ONE piece of meat in the pan, making sure there’s space around it.
  • No crowding, very important.
  • If it sizzles, you succeeded.
  • If it remains silent or just faintly bubbles, take the meat out and wait another minute or so.
  • It’s okay, no harm done.

Do you really roast the POT?

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  • Flip it, and if it doesn’t look more or less like this, flip it back and put some more dishes in the dishwasher or change the channel or check your email or something.

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  • Be patient.
  • Brown that piece of meat all over, and you can increase the heat.
  • The noise tells you if the pan is hot enough.
  • If it hisses and just kinda steams, turn up the heat. Quick.
  • If it pops and spits oil out of the pan on your arm, it’s too hot.
  • If it sizzles and occasionally offers you a tiny bit of splatter, you are golden.
  • Then, as pictured, move the meat to the edge of the pan, and stand it up.
  • This accomplishes two things.
  • It continues to brown the meat on the sides.
  • It makes room for another piece of meat, as shown.
  • Repeat the process.
  • Brown. VERY brown. Be brave.

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  • Surely, you can see what I’m doing here.
  • It’s not perfect science.
  • Sometimes you turn the heat up a little, down a little, all good.

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    • Ultimately, we end up with this.
    • If you like, you can keep browning the edges.

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Awwww, yiss.

  • If you refer to the Spare Ribs Ragu article, you will se the complete explanation of how to cut the vegetables for sofrito/soffritto.
  • Do that with the celery, carrots and onions.
  • They don’t have to be SV processed.
  • I keep those vegetables SV processed in the fridge because they last longer, but both ways work.

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  • Add the vegetables to the pan, there should be ample fat accumulated in there.
  • You’re going to need it.

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  • You can see one of the onions got hung up in the processor, no matter.
  • Bear with me
  • Again, sizzle, not hiss.
  • Sizzle, not pop.
  • RESIST THE URGE TO STIR IT.
  • Let it brown.
  • If you stir it, it won’t brown.
  • Stirring cools off the pan. So does that fancy saute “flip.”
  • Do something else for exercise.

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  • Let the vegetables fry.
  • Don’t call it saute. It’s fry. Fried. No shame in that.
  • Stir ONCE IN A WHILE, just enough to keep them from burning on the bottom, which they won’t as long as your heat is right.
  • Sizzle. Sizzle. Listen for it.

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Romantic lighting always adds a little sense of style.

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  • So, if we do it right, the vegetables will brown, cook, but not turn to mush from too much stirring.pot-roast-2-23

 

  • I used tomato paste, but use whatever tomato product you settled on.
  • Stir it JUST ENOUGH to coat the sofrito.
  • Let it brown some more, medium heat.

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You get the picture.

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  • Fancy that.

 

  • You can see that crust forming on the bottom, reduce heat a little, like medium or slightly below.
  • Stir a little bit at this point,

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  • In a minute or two, you will achieve this awesome color.

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  • Add water, about 2 quarts.

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I think he’s gonna tell us to boil something!

  • You’re not returning it to a boil, because it never boiled yet.
  • Bring it to a boil, and the crust on the bottom will dissolve into the sauce-to-be.
  • You can help it along with a wooden spoon.
  • I love wooden spoons.
  • They’re like the wheel. Wooden spoons will never go out of service.

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  • Put each piece of meat in its own gallon bag.

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  • Figure out a way to get them to stand up.
  • You can see what I did here.
  • Do something like that.
  • Lipavi racks are good for this too.
  • Lipavi racks are good for a lot of things.
  • Divide the sauce among the two bags.
  • If you use a Lipavi rack and a gallon bag, you don’t actually have to seal the bag, because the rack holds the opening above the water line.
  • This is a new model for Sous Vide that we are calling Sans Vide.
  • I will talk more about Sans Vide later, just wanted to give you a heads up.
  • My friend’s been bugging me to start talking about it.

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  • That’s a Lipavi rack right there.
  • So, it looks pretty pink right now.
  • Pick a temperature between 140F and 183F.
  • I used 165Fx8 hours, which will give me that sort of traditional braised texture.
  • 183Fx6 will be fall apart tender.
  • 140Fx24 will be the texture that SV followers have become familiar with.

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  • Carefully remove the bag from the tank, and unload into a container large enough to hold everything.
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Just try to blend in.

  • Set aside the meat for now.
  • Put the sauce with the finely cut vegetables into your favorite old fashioned blender.
  • You can also use a stick blender or a food processor.
  • Grind, grind, and grind some more, until it’s very smooth.

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 Strain it through a basic sieve, not too fine, it’s not necessary.

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  • This is the thing about being a cook.
  • Sometimes you encounter products that resemble the baby food stage, or worse.
  • I was talking about this to a foodie the other day, and I said “People handle food as if it’s repulsive.”
  • This puree is simply the celery, carrots, and onions, with some tomato product stuck to them and some water.
  • In another concentration of liquid, it will look delicious.

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  • Put the paste back in the blender and fire it up again.
  • This will get it even smoother.
  • Slowly add some of the liquid to create the right amount of friction, like you’re making one of those awful smoothies.
  • Put the sauce in a pot and gently return it to a boil.
  • Correct seasoning.
  • Add salt until it tastes good.
  • Add 2 oz. of cold butter and stir it in.
  • Heat up some peas, or whatever vegetables you feel like serving with it.
  • Classically, carrots go in there, but, there are still no garnish police so far as I know.

    Let the Dancing almost begin.

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  • Put some hot noodles in a bowl.
  • Right, I almost forgot, cook some noodles!
  • I made pumpkin Pappardelle for this one, but any noodles will do.
  • Butter the noodles.
  • Put a little bit of the sauce on the noodles, just to moisten.
  • Sprinkle some vegetables around there.

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  • Slice some pot roast and lay it on top.
  • Some chefs serve it in chunks, that’s fine too.
  • You’re the one who’s eating it, right?
  • Do your thang.

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  • Put some more of the beautiful sauce on top.

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  • Blow your own mind.
  • Pretty easy, really.

 

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  • This is how it looks when it’s sliced cold, you can see that dry appearance.
  • That’s because the fat has reverse-melted.
  • This reheats really well.
  • Simmer it in the sauce, fry it, steam it, eat it cold.
  • It’s your world now.

 

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  • Same thing with some Pumpkin Garganelli that I made.
  • Those little pasta thingies are tricky to make.

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  • They look pretty cool, though.
  • You have to roll out sheets, cut them into squares, and roll them on a dowel while rubbing on a gnocchi board.
  • Who thinks this stuff up?

Hope that helped!