The segment of cow known as the round spans the rump to the ankle, according to my Food Lover’s Companion. One cut we’ve got on hand is bottom round, which the Companion says is variable in tenderness and probably best suited for a long braise. Our plan is pot roast, started a day in advance and left to rest on the chilly back steps overnight. This particular cut is a beautiful wedge of red-brown beef from Lopez Island that’s marbled with thin veins of fat. It browns up quickly, and we build the stew with carrots, onions, mushrooms, fresh thyme, and the magic ingredient known as bacon. Charlie grinds on a crust of black pepper.

Soon into the cooking, the kitchen fills with an intoxicating beefy musk, but at the three hour mark, the meat is just softening in its juices, and by then it’s time for bed. This means another hour on low heat tonight to finish the job, with parsnips added towards the end, for their sweet, lovely taste. The pot roast holds its shape well for plating and proves surprisingly moist, tender, and deeply flavorful.

Recipe: My Mother-in-Law’s Beef Bourguignon

2 lbs bottom round / 2 strips of slab bacon / 1 tbs butter / 1 onion, sliced / 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces / ¼ lb shiitake and other mushrooms, quartered / 1 clove garlic, minced / 1 tbs flour / 1 cup unsalted chicken stock / 1 cup water / ½ cup red wine / ½ tbs tomato paste / 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves / 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped / 3 parsnips, optional, peeled and cut

Cut meat into 5 or 6 large pieces along natural lines and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a heavy ovenproof pot, render bacon over medium heat until golden; set aside. Pour out most of the bacon fat, add butter to pan, and cook meat until browned all over. Set aside.

Add onions, carrots, ¼ tsp salt and a few grindings of pepper to pot and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until starting to caramelize. Add mushrooms and garlic cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and toss thoroughly, cooking until browned, another 2 minutes or so. Add stock, water, wine and bring to a boil. Cut bacon into small pieces and add it plus tomato paste, meat and thyme, then simmer 2½ hours on low heat or in a 300 degree oven, until meat is very tender. Add parsnips 15 minutes prior to finishing, if desired. Garnish with fresh thyme and parsley. Feeds 4-6. Serve with buttered egg noodles.

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