There’s this weird tradition amongst chefs where they discuss their last supper. If you knew you could only have one more meal, what would it be? Beef en Cocotte (an easy, slow cooked pot roast) might be mine. Served on top of buttery mashed potatoes along with a glass of cabernet. Sitting outside on a lightly crisp autumn evening, wrapped in blankets, with string lights waving through the trees, a fire crackling in the background, surrounded by friends and family having good conversation.
Don’t let the name intimidate you
Beef en Cocotte (pronounced ahn koh-koht), translates to beef casserole or beef in a pot. So, it’s literally just a pot roast. You can always keep calling it Beef en Cocotte to impress your friends and family. If you want to impress them further, you can tell them that you started your sauce with a mirepoix (meer-pwah), a combination of vegetables that flavors the dish. And added a bouquet garni (boo-keh gahr-nee), a bunch of herbs that are either tied together with twine or wrapped in cheesecloth, for your aromatics. See fancy. But making this slow cooked pot roast is really quite simple. Sear meat, chop veggies, and stick it in the oven. Ok, it’s a little bit more complicated than that but not by much.
Should you buy a bone-in or boneless roast?
Either one will work. I personally use a boneless roast because it is easier for me to find. But a bone-in roast will add even deeper flavors and make it even more juicy. If you go the bone-in route, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First the bones will add weight so plan to get something that is a quarter pound or so heavier than you want to make. So, if you would buy a 3 pound boneless, buy a 3 ¼ pound bone-in. You get it. Second, it will add additional cooking time. How much cooking time? It depends on the cut of meat and how many bones and how they are dispersed. Bones are not a good conductor of heat so it will add extra time, anywhere from 15-minutes to an hour. This part of cooking is more of an art than a science. Just keep an eye on the roast and when you can stick a fork in and it releases easily it’s done.
More information about salt than you thought you needed to know
Salt is one of the most important ingredients in cooking. Salt isn’t a seasoning, it is a flavor enhancer. That’s why it is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Salt makes chocolate taste more chocolatey and meat taste more meaty. But you can over salt and one way to do that is by using different types of salt. I use Morton’s Kosher Salt in all of my recipes unless otherwise noted (like if I use table salt, I will let you know). Not all kosher salt is created equal. Two of the biggest kosher salt brands are Morton’s and Diamond Crystal. Because they are manufactured completely differently they actually have a different volume when measured. In fact, Morton’s is almost 1.85 times saltier than Diamond Crystal when measured by volume. Long story short: if you use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, you will need to use nearly 3 teaspoons of salt to get the same saltiness as 1-½ teaspoons Morton’s Kosher Salt. If measuring by weight, you can do a one-to-one swap.
If you salt a roast before cooking you either need to salt it no more than 3 minutes before or more than 45 minutes before searing. That’s because more than 3 minutes the salt will begin to pull the moisture from the meat (you will see it start to bead on the surface). If you sear the beef at that point, all of the moisture will have gone onto the surface and you will end up with an incredibly tough, dry piece of meat. But if you wait longer, the water and salt on the surface will begin to mingle and create a brine right on top of your meat. Eventually, the meat will begin to draw the brine back inside, trapping the moisture to help create a juicy, tender cut of meat. In this recipe you let it site for at least 6 hours but up to 24 hours which gives the salt plenty of time to do its thing. Source.
Beef En Cocotte
- 5-7 quart dutch oven with a tight fitting lid
- Kitchen twine
- Wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula
- Aluminum Foil
- 1 3 to 4 pounds beef chuck roast, bone-in or boneless
- 1 ½ teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 medium yellow onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch slices (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped into 1-inch slices (about 1 cup)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, stem removed and smashed
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium beef broth, plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, optional
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sage fresh leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- Six to 24-hours before you are ready to make this dish, prep the roast by salting with 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt. Wrap salted roast in plastic wrap and place on a plate in the fridge. Remove roast from fridge 25-30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Make the bouquet garni by tying all herbs together with kitchen twine.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. While oil is heating, pat roast dry with paper towels and season with pepper. When oil is shimmery and lightly smoking, add roast to dutch oven and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Once seared on all sides, set roast aside on a clean plate.
- Turn burner down to medium heat. Add remaining oil to now empty dutch oven. When oil is shimmery, add in the onions and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add carrots, celery and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and cook until onions begin to brown, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until garlic becomes fragrant. Deglaze pan with red wine and beef broth, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer uncovered.
- Add roast and all accumulated juices to pot, making sure the liquid rises at least two thirds of the way up the side of the roast but does not completely cover it. Add more beef broth if necessary and bring back to a simmer. Once at a simmer, add bouquet garni, cover pot with aluminum foil, add cover, and place in the oven. Cook 2-3 hours, until meat is fork tender, turning roast every 45 minutes. While cooking, add hot water to pot if liquid gets below halfway up the side of the roast.
- Remove pot from oven and discard bouquet garni. Remove roast and let rest, tented with foil, until sauce is ready. While roast is resting, remove vegetables from the pot and set aside to serve as a side (cover with foil to keep warm).
- Pour liquid left in the pot into a fat separator and wait 5 minutes. Once fat has separated, reserve ¼ cup sauce and pour the rest into the empty dutch oven and reduce sauce over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it does not scorch.
- To make a thicker sauce (optional): While sauce is reducing, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing cornstarch and reserved sauce in a small bowl. After letting the sauce in the pot reduce for 5 minutes, whisk in slurry and continue cooking 3-5 minutes or the sauce has reached your desired thickness.
- Slice roast and serve immediately over mashed potatoes, rice, or egg noodles along with the vegetables and sauce.
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