Look away if you must, but this post is not going to be sexy. It involves supreme confusion, a sharp knife, and a 4 lb. piece of meat. To be more specific, it recalls the first time I decided to prepare a chuck roast.
I knew the chuck would be capable of transforming into an exquisitely tender and flavorful stew but I remained unsure of how the chuck would go from a monolithic meat structure to tender bite-sized heaven.
It’s true that I grew up in New England and my grandmother’s beef stew was a highlight in her canon of from-scratch meals she daily prepared but I was less than 5 years old at that time and wasn’t exactly by the oven taking notes.
On this particular day I had in mind a Moroccan beef stew which would involve slowly braising the meat with red wine, apricots, onion, raisins, and spices. Yum! But how would I trim this unwieldy piece of meat? First I had to ensure nobody was home. Just looking at that freaky roast told me that this wasn’t going to be pretty. With my pot at the ready on the stove, I began cutting into the meat, at first to trim the fat but eventually hacking in every possible direction attempting to break the roast down into somewhat uniform pieces. It was a true horror show. “THE INQUISITION FINDS YOU GUILTY OF HERESY!” I squealed at the meat before tossing it in the pot and running away to wash both my hands and soul of the tragedy that had just occurred.
From then out, things went smoothly. Once the stew was in the oven, I decided to check in with my
only friend occasional reference resource GOOGLE to see what light might be shed on how a normal person might have gone about cooking one of these roasts. Oops! Google says I’m supposed to leave the meat in one piece and that the fat and collagen will break down during the cooking process. The meat will be tender enough at the end to pull apart with a fork. Damn!
In the end, however, the stew was amazingly tender and flavorful! I served it with whole wheat couscous and roasted butternut squash. The flavors were dark, sweet, and spicy. Would I do this all over again? Absolutely, but maybe next time without ever touching a knife.
Moroccan Beef Tagine with Roasted Butternut Squash
Adapted from Bon Appetit
1 3-4 lb Chuck Roast
4 + 2 T Olive Oil, divided
1 Large Yellow Onion, diced
3 T All Purpose Flour
4 C Beef Broth
1 ½ C Dry Red Wine
4 T Tomato Paste
½ tsp Ground Cumin
½ tsp Ground Allspice
½ tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 C Dried Apricots
1 C Golden Raisins
2 T Honey
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
Whole Wheat Couscous for serving
Directions: Preheat Oven to 325° F. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until brown (approx 20 min.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions to a large bowl. Season roast with S+P. Add 2 T olive oil to the pot, then the roast. Brown roast on all sides (approx 15 minutes.) Transfer roast to bowl with onions.
Whisk flour into drippings in pot. Whisk in 2 C broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Mix in remaining 2 C broth, wine, tomato paste spices, and honey. Return roast and onions to pot, adding apricots and raisins.
Bring liquid to a boil and cover pot. Place pot in the oven and bake until roast is tender (approx 2-2 ½ hours.)
Once stew has been in the oven for almost 2 hours, place butternut squash chunks in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for approx 35 minutes or until tender, stirring the squash after 15 minutes. Once squash is finished baking, remove from oven and set aside.
When roast is tender, remove from oven and season with S+P as needed. Serve over couscous with butternut squash.
*Try this with a California Red Zinfandel or a South African Syrah!