Mmmm. Pot roast.
The surprising thing is that even with all of these years of cooking under my belt, I’ve never made it myself. I’ve enjoyed my mom and dad’s often. But not everyone likes it. I’ve heard it described as a dry hunk’o’meat with veggies that taste just as muddy as that dry hunk’o’meat rather than tasting like roasted veggies. So when I noticed that the boneless chuck roast was on sale while grocery shopping a couple of weekends ago, I passed it over, opting for boneless chicken breasts instead. But while standing at the checkout, images of machaca burritos started dancing in my head. On impulse, I went back to the meat counter and picked out a roast with absolutely no idea how I was going to prepare it.
Once home, I waffled back and forth on how to proceed. I pulled out cookbooks and found that most of the recipes were fairly similar and very traditional. Feeling adventurous, I returned the cookbooks to the shelf and headed to my kitchen, mid-day coffee in hand.
Needing inspiration, I opened my spice drawer and started rifling through the plethora of bottles and packets. Visitors who often open the drawer looking for utensils only to find several dozen spice bottles laying on their sides stacked two layers deep, have gasped in amazement at the assortment. I love spices, yes I do. I love spices. How about you? Oops. Momentarily off-track. Uh-hem!
A few months ago, I brought home achiote (annato) seeds from the Mexican market down the street. I was prompted to pick them up after a second viewing of Ten Minute Cooking School in the bonus features of Robert Rodriguez’ “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” Achiote is the main spice in his Puerco Pibil (also known as Cochinita Pibil) recipe – next on my list to make since that's why I bought the achiote in the first place!
Traditionally, achiote paste is used for chicken and pork but I got to thinking, how would it pair with beef?I pondered that as I sipped more coffee. Coffee. Hmmm. Coffee and beef? Coffee, beef and achiote? Well, Major Tom, I think we have a plan.
After accepting this unorthodox combo, I just dove in and hoped for the best. The result? Out of this world! The achiote gave the meat a gorgeous red color and the kahlua added to the earthy flavor of the seed. It’s definitely going into rotation here in the afotogirl household. And, guess what was even better than the pot roast? The machaca burritos I made two days later with the leftover meat. Yum!
Kahlua Braised Chuck Roast
I made this dish over the coarse of two days because I wanted to make sure that I could remove ALL the excess fat. By cooking one day and leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, the fat was easily separated from the sauce.
For the rub:
2 tbs achiote entero (whole annato seeds)
1 tbs California chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs whole Mexican oregano
1 tbs granulated onion powder
1 tbs granulated garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
4 lb boneless chuck roast
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, coarse chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cp Kahlua
2 cps chicken stock
2 dried bay leaves
Preheat oven to 425˚
Put the first nine ingredients into a coffee grinder (uh, one you aren’t gonna use for coffee again, of course). Grind to a fine powder.
At medium heat, heat 1 tbs olive oil in a dutch oven (see note). Turn the meat out onto a work surface and pat the meat dry. Pour half the spice onto one side and rub it into the meat, into any crevices and down the sides of the roast. Flip and repeat with the other half of the spice.
Once the oil is shimmering, carefully place the roast into the pot and brown on all sides. Remove meat to a platter and set aside.
Add the rest of the olive oil (more if needed) and once hot, add onions to the pot along with any remaining rub. Sweat the onions for 1 minute. Add kahlua and stir with a wooden spoon to release all of the brown bits stuck to the pot. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Return the meat to the pot and add the bay leaves. Cover.
Place in hot oven at 425˚ for 1 hour. After 1 hour, flip the meat. Lower heat to 325˚ and continue to braise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove pot from the oven. Carefully lift the meat out of the pot and place on a dish to cool. Remove the bay leaves. Using a slotted spoon, spoon out as much of the thickened tomatoes as possible and place in a container to cool. Place the remaining liquid into a bowl to cool. Once everything is no longer hot to the touch, place in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove all ingredients from the refrigerator. You’ll notice that all the fat in the sauce bowl has risen to the top and solidified. Using a spoon, carefully remove the fat and discard it.
Return the sauce to a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, add back the tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Cut the meat into large chunks and stir into the sauce to heat through.
Serve over rice and your favorite fresh steamed veggies.
Note: I used a dutch oven though any deep, heavy bottomed pot with a TIGHT fitting lid will do. The lid needs to be tight because the sauce will actually increase in amount due to the trapped steam and condensation which, by the way, helps to make the meat tender by self-braising. That's the beauty of a dutch oven.
What to do with the leftovers?
Make machaca burritos or tacos. Remove meat from sauce. Shred. Add vegetable oil to a hot pan. When shimmering, add diced bell peppers, sliced or chopped onions and sweat. Add the meat and one egg per person.
Scramble until combined and just set.
Add to a warmed flour tortilla for a breakfast burrito or to warmed corn tortillas for lunch.
You can also skip the egg and simply shred the meat and heat. Place into a warm tortilla and top with a little of the left over sauce. Add some fresh cilantro, chopped onions and some crumbled queso fresco. Also, the leftover sauce is yummy on eggs over easy or as a topping for an omelette
Until next time...