Wino’s Burgundy Pot Roast
I cook with wine, beer and liquor. Frequently. However, I generally show (some paltry) restraint. This has nothing to do with the affinities of our guests, and whether or not they appreciate the possibility of a DUI when all they’ve ingested was a bit of shrimp cocktail, but it just seems such a pity to use up too much of my hooch in a meal. I mean, sure, I could pour a bottle of fine Burgundy into a pot. Or I could drink it. This is not normally a difficult decision for me.
Even so, there are times when I’m compelled to use more than a cup here or a splash there. Boeuf Bourgignone is one of those times. The good news is that quality beef Bourgignone is a long, drawn out, multi-step, time consuming process that I’m not likely to repeat on a regular basis. So….less wine for cooking and more wine for drinking. The bad news is that I have a special place in my heart for short-cut beef Burgundy, otherwise known as the wino’s pot roast with mushrooms.
You’ve read the theory again and again: only cook with wine that you want to drink. Again and again and again…..That’s bullocks. I’ve said it myself before, true, but in the context of a lightly flavored dish (like steamed mussels) where the character of your wine can really make or break the dish. But think, just for a minute, about rich and tannic red wine. Red wine that you’re heating, slowly, for almost eight hours. Any nuance that the wine might have had? Gone. Rich peppery undertones and a surprising taste-sense of freshly picked blackberries? I don’t think so. Don’t splurge, people. I mean, I’m not suggesting that you buy the $4 “value bottle” that your neighbor uses to de-clog his drain, but it would be foolish to splurge on a vintage when the heat will mask or destroy the fine nuances that the bottle once had. Remember that temperature is a catalyst for many chemical changes, and in the same way that you wouldn’t store perfume above your stove you ALSO wouldn’t cook with something from your cellar. I promise you, for once I’m not just being a wet-blanket skin flint. If you’re going to spend your money, buy a nice bottle to serve WITH this weeknight meal. Don’t pour it into the dish when a cheaper/mediocre wine would do just fine.
I think that might actually be all the nattering that I do today! Huh. Oh, but one more thing: you want to use a “family sized” slow cooker when you make this meal. I have two slow cookers at home. The first is a baby-puke brown 2 quart crock pot from…well, from around the time that crockpots were first invented. I bought it at a garage sale. For 50 cents. Sure, you can taunt me for that, but my fiddy-sen baby kept me fed throughout many a University year. As it stands there’s actually nothing wrong with that little guy, I just upgraded to Harold, my current slowcooker, because Felicious C.P. (in da HAUS) was too small to suit our needs. If you’re going to be braising a roast, you don’t want a HUGE device because the meat should fit snugly. However, a 6-8 qt model is right around where you want to fire that gun.
Wino’s Burgundy Pot Roast
- 1.25 kg (3 lb or so) beef rump roast *
- 2 + 1 tbsp oil
- 2 bulbs garlic
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cups + 2 tbsp beef broth
- 750 ml (1 bottle) red wine **
- 1.5 tablespoons honey
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp allspice berries
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 20 oz mushrooms
- 3-4 tbsp cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
* I love the rich flavor (and affordable price) of a rump roast, tough old bird that she is. After a long braise in your slow cooker this stringy and dry meat will be moist and falling apart it’s so tender. If you would prefer a different cut, bottom round and chuck or shoulder roast are my favorites for a slow cook.
** You know my thoughts on this already. Don’t splurge. But DO buy a magnum, because what good is cracking a bottle of wine and not being able to drink any of it?
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Slice just the tops off of your garlic bulbs to expose the tips of the cloves. Drizzle the cloves with 1 tbsp of olive oil and wrap them tightly in tin foil. Tuck the packet into your oven for about 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until your house smells fragrant and, upon unwrapping, the garlic is a lovely and soft golden brown.
Also: I don’t turn on my oven just to roast garlic (are you kidding me??) and it keeps perfectly well in the fridge for a week or so. If you want to roast your garlic in advance, preferably while something else is already in there, feel free.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a fairly large and heavy bottomed skillet. Pat your rump roast dry and then season it liberally with salt and pepper. Get the pan screaming hot and then quickly sear the meat on all sides. This should only take about 3-4 minutes in total, assuming that your pan is hot enough. Remember that you don’t want to cook the meat through, you just want to give it some color.
A quick note about the meat – when I buy it the roast has already been tied for me. If your isn’t, you might want to go ahead and do that. You can sear the meat with the twine on there, so that’s nothing to worry about.
As soon as the meat is seared you can remove it from the pan and let it rest in the insert of your slow cooker. Turn the heat on the pan down to medium-low and give it a few minutes to lose some heat. Don’t drain the oil out of your pan or scrape up the browned bits. Sometimes it pays to be lazy, because that pan has ‘flavor’ written all over it.
Melt the butter in your pan. As soon as it starts to bubble and froth, add the flour. Whisk the flour into the butter and let it cook down as a mealy paste for just about 2 minutes or until the color darkens gently to a golden tone.
Whisk the mixture regularly as it cooks down. What you’re trying to do is cook out that pasty raw flour taste.
When the base of your roux (the butter and flour) is golden, start to add the 3 cups of beef broth in a slow and steady stream. Whisk constantly as you do this to prevent lumps. When all of the beef broth is added you should have a fairly thick and viscous sauce. Dollop in the tomato paste and honey and let this cook together, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes.
Pour in the wine while, as always, whisking and whisking away. Don’t worry, that’s the end of it. I promise.
Taste the sauce and season gently with salt and pepper. Remember to have a light hand now because you can adjust the seasoning at the end.
Slice the mushrooms up 1/4″ thick and nestle them all around the meat. Sprinkle the herbs and bay leaves on top.
Pour the sauce on top of the meat. Unwrap the two bulbs of roasted garlic, if you haven’t done that already, and squeeze the whole cloves into the mix. Pour over top just enough water to make sure that the roast is covered. Refrigerate the whole shebang overnight if you’re like me and the only reason that you’re using a slow cooker instead of a Dutch oven is because hey, it’s a weeknight. You’re not going to be home while it slowly simmers away…the next day.
Before you go to work in the morning you can put the insert back in your slow cooker. Set the device to cook on low heat for 6-7 hours.
At this point the meat should be falling apart it’s so tender, and you’ll see a greasy pool of fat loitering on top of what will eventually be your gravy. Use a shallow spoon to gently press down and skim this (flavorful but oleaginous) awfulness off.
If you wish, remove the meat from the sauce and tent it tightly with tin foil so that it doesn’t dry out. I don’t, because that seems almost like work to me. And also, after 7 hours of braising I don’t think an extra half hour will do it much harm. Whisk the cornstarch with the remaining beef broth and pour it into the mixture. You likely want to start with 3 tbsp of corn starch and add another tablespoon after 30 minutes if you think the sauce still needs some thickening. Or, if you like your gravy thinner (more like an au jus) you might want to stop at 2 tbsp. Remember that how much you add will be affected by how much water you needed to put into the pot before it started cooking.
Turn the heat on your slow cooker up to “High” and let it cook for 30- 45 minutes, or until your sauce has thickened into a gravy like consistency that you’re proud of.
Or, if you prefer, your other option is to strain the mustrooms and garlic out of the sauce (set them aside in foil with the meat) and pour it into a small pot set over medium heat. Let this mixture simmer until it has reduced to a gravy like consistency, which will take about 10-15 minutes.
A quick note on the sauce is that there will be quite a bit. However, a slow simmered beefy red wine sauce isn’t a bad thing to have in scads. Leftover gravy, if you have some (and likely will) is fabulous when you saute up some pork, beef tips or portobellos and serve this as a sauce over broad egg noodles.
Gently prod the beef in that awaking-your-lover kind of way. It will literally fall apart. Spoon some gravy over top and serve your tender pot roast with mashed potatoes, rice or even a side of broad egg noodles.
On days after Daylight Savings Time (otherwise known as Howdy Depression, My Old Friend) when you leave for work in the pitch black and you drive home in the dark, it can be rather rewarding to know that a comforting meal is simmering away and just waiting for you to arrive.
The rich flavors of a traditional boeuf bourgignone come through with just this minimal amount of effort. All you really need to do is a bit of prep and your slow cooker will take care of the rest. And, more importantly, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from drinking excessive amounts of red wine. You can feel somewhat virtuous as you say to the cashier at the LCBO, “Hey, did you get a haircut? Oh, and this wine? THIS isn’t for us, this is for DINNER!!”