Chuck Roast with Moroccan Seasonings
I’m finding myself in the middle of numerous catering events and with no time to do a recipe for the post, but I can share with you the lessons that I live and one of those ‘Vague Recipes’. And some Midwestern autumn images instead of attempts at making beef look photogenic.
In preparation for a large wedding, yesterday was the day to cook off the chuck roasts for the weekend. I knew because I was working with a large quantity that these roasts would take at least five hours to do their thing so I attempted to have them prepped and roasting by 10:00 a.m.. But adhering to my Catering Rule #1 (Everything Takes Longer Than You Think) it was 11:30 when they finally went in.
Many tasks later it was now 5:00 p.m. so I check the oven buddies. Using a knife or fork it’s easy to tell—if at the first slice or poke the mass jiggles like jello and begins to fall away then Magic has occurred and mission accomplished. If there is no give then I know the connective tissue has not yet reached the ‘melting’ point of 200 degrees and our friend goes back in the oven for an indefinite amount of time. When the roast is not ready there is no shortcut, no coaxing, no negotiating, no bribing. There is only time and heat, and letting it continue to do its work. And waiting.
So I do other tasks and wait for the rest of the roasts.
6:00—four of the pans gave in to the heat and are ready! Four other pans were not ready to come out of the cozy ovens.
6:30—nope. Do some of the dishes from other tasks.
7:00—getting really close.
That’s right, nearly 8 hours after the adding these roasts to the oven The Beautiful occurred. Putting a large quantity of cold roasts in an oven will take longer to come to temperature than just one, but it was worth the wait. I also use thinner pans when cooking this kind of quantity since that is what I have, and it’s possible that a heavier pan would help the process. I don’t yet have the stash of 12 cast iron Dutch ovens, but that would be a beautiful sight.
This low-slow covered or ‘wet’ roasting is best for the tough cuts with connective tissue that will eventually break down into succulence — with beef this would be chuck, arm or brisket. The more tender cuts (ribeye, sirloin, rib roast) are better with a higher temperature oven, uncovered or ‘dry’ roast, and for much less time. This gives it a lovely crust outside but is still tender and medium rare inside. Beef chuck roast is relatively easy because of its fats and collagen membrane—if you’re getting into roasting lean game meat the rules are a little different and cooked to a lower temperature.
Fine Cooking explains the dilemma well:
“By its very composition, meat poses a challenge to cooks. The more you cook muscle, the more the proteins will firm up, toughen, and dry out. But the longer you cook connective tissue, the more it softens and becomes edible. To be specific, muscle tends to have the most tender texture between 120° and 160°F. But connective tissue doesn’t even start to soften until it hits 160°F, and it needs to reach 200°F to completely break down. By the time connective tissue is becoming edible, the muscle has completely overcooked.”
Slow oven roasting is also a great way to make a kitchen feel cozy on these chilly, drizzly fall days.
Roast Beef with Moroccan Seasonings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 3-6 hours
Dust a 2-3 pound Chuck Roast with:
Rice Flour (or all-purpose flour)
Heat a heavy pan and add:
Canola or other high temperature oil
Sear both sides of the roast, then remove from heat and leave in the pan or transfer to a heavy roasting pan. Sprinkle generous amounts on the roast:
Sprinkle on slightly-less generous amounts:
Layer on top:
a handful of dried Currants, Figs or Apricots
1 small Onion, sliced lengthwise
1 Lemon, sliced in rounds, or Lemon Juice
Cover with a tight fitting lid and roast in a 300-325 degree oven.
Check after 3 hours, and every half hour until the meat falls apart when you look at it.
My favorite strolling place…