Saturday, October 22, 2011

What’s The Difference Between Pot Roast And Beef Stew AND When Is A Beef Stew A Boeuf Bourguignon?

Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell

I was watching Anne rock out a pot roast last weekend and she got me thinking about those very important issues.

Let's answer the second question - When is a Beef Stew a Boeuf Bourguignon? - first. A Boeuf Bourguignon is a TYPE of beef stew, typically made with a bottle of red wine (and a few other standard elements - pearl onions and bacon lardons). But what does a pot roast have to do with that?

WELL, (I feel like rubbing my hands together with glee, there’s so much fun stuff to talk about) both dishes – pot roasts and beef stews – feature a long slow braising of the meat after it’s been seared. And that’s the meat of the matter.

Of course, with a pot roast, the meat is cooked in one piece, and with a stew, it’s cut into cubes. There are also infinite variations on whether you marinate or not marinate the meat, what you add in terms of flavorings and vegetables and how you thicken the sauce (if you even do).

Let’s see how Anne does her pot roast and how that method might apply to a beef stew. She shows her technical virtuosity in the first few minutes of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef as she wrastles with her pot roast in the kitchen of her restaurant.

Back in her “home” kitchen, Anne tells us to start with a chuck roast. She says it’s a tough piece of meat, because it’s from the front shoulder which gets a lot of use. Chuck is also great to use in a beef stew (but we’ll talk about stew in a minute.). Anne tells us to cook the pot roast “low and slow”. She ties up the meat to keep it “tight and firm” , which makes for better slicing later on. Hmmm. I have NEVER done that. Great idea.

Anne heats up oil ”because browned food tastes good”. She adds the well-seasoned meat to the pan with a big sizzle. (I love that she washes her hands A LOT). Then she talks about having a good mis en place. Celery, thyme and onions get readied to be added to the pan. She turns the meat over to brown the second side. Then she chops (A LOT) of garlic, but she doesn’t remove the center stem. >:-(

Anne adds a bit of new oil to the pan and adds the sliced celery and onions with a bit of salt. (Usually, you add salt to release moisture from the vegetables. You often want them soft before you start browning, so you get the maximum sweetness out of them. Here, however, we're not concerned with getting them completely soft before they start to brown.)

Next Anne adds garlic and her ”super-secret flavor weapons” - bay leaves, star anise, red wine vinegar (instead of wine) and tomato paste. She likes the brightness that the vinegar adds to the taste of the pot roast. Then she adds orange zest. Oh, don’t forget the thyme bundle.

She adds chicken stock and salt, which “makes everybody taste better”. Don’t you just love her Anne-isms? She brings the entire thing to the boil and then adds back in the meat. The whole thing goes into a 350°F. oven. After one hour, she’ll turn it over and will add more liquid if she has to.

Anne also is going to add butternut squash and Jerusalem artichokes AND dried figs. (I have certainly added prunes, but never figs OR Jerusalem artichokes) Oh, Anne just said you can add prunes instead of the figs.

To go with the pot roast, Anne boils up Yukon gold potatoes (unpeeled) with peeled and chopped parsnips in “super salty water”.

After the pot roast has been cooking for 2 hours, Anne takes it out of the liquid for second and does some “QC” or quality control and tastes the liquid for seasoning. She loves it. She stirs in the squash, Jerusalem artichokes and figs, adds a bit more liquid and puts the meat back on top. It goes back in for 45 minutes more – 30 with the lid on, 15 with the lid off.

She drains the potatoes and parsnips and tests them with a FORK, not a paring knife, she reminds us. (I had never heard that before she mentioned it another time.)

Anne loves the creamy texture of the Yukon gold’s and because she’s putting them through a food mill, it was fine to leave the skins on. Smart. She singsongs, “We say thank YOU for coming” to all the fibers and skin left in the food mill. She stirs heavy cream into the puréed vegetables with cold butter. She keeps them warm in a pot in a 200°F. oven.

Anne pours herself some Pinot Noir after she pulls the pot roast out of the oven. She lets the pot roast rest and unties it. She says we don’t want to floss at the same time as we eat.

Now THIS is instructional. Anne tells us why putting a bed of puréed potatoes on the bottom of the plate is so smart. It acts as a glue that keeps the pot roast in place AND it warms up the plate and keeps everything hot. She adds a few pieces of pot roast on top with some of the braising liquid that has the vegetables in it. She tastes it and she’s VERY impressed with herself. She’s a “happy, happy” girl.

You can use Anne’s recipe as a guide for making any kind of braised beef pot roast, stew or Bourguignon. Or you could use lamb, for that matter.

Let’s talk stew. I learned how to make it as Ragoût De Boeuf, which is a general term for beef stew. The steps are almost the same as Anne’s recipe with one exception. A classic beef stew is thickened with flour or a beurre manié.

This is a classic, basic Ragoût De Boeuf recipe:
Start with a chuck roast and cut the meat into 1½ to 2 inch squares. I’m often tempted to cut them smaller to get more pieces, but don’t do that. They’ll fall apart.

Season the meat and, in a Dutch oven, fry in hot oil until browned on both sides. Remove meat to a plate. Turn down heat, add 4 carrots and 2 big onions, medium chopped, with a bit more salt, stirring to pick up the color from the bottom of the pan. (They don’t have to sweat until soft. Just get them started cooking for about 3 minutes.)

If there’s tons of fat in the pan, pour off all but about a good tablespoonful. Off the heat, stir in one tablespoon of flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. (The vegetables will get clumpy and lumpy from the flour.) Add 2 cups of stock (vegetable, chicken or beef) SLOWLY, stirring to get the lumps out. Add a crushed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste and a bay leaf. Bring to the boil, taste for seasoning and add the meat back in. Simmer, covered for 1½ to 2 hours in a 350°F. oven or on top of the stove. Serve over mashed potatoes.

9 times out of time, I skip the flour AND I add more stock and a cup of red wine. The sauce is thinner than the classic ragout, but the liquid is sooo flavorful and delicious, I always want more. Also the stew thickens on standing, so the next day, it’s always thicker anyway. You can certainly make this a day ahead and just reheat before serving.

As far as Boeuf Bourguignon, even Julia says there is more than one way to make one. But her recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a great start (if a bit lengthy). You’ll also need her mushroom recipe and the onion recipe. (I’ll see you in 2 weeks when you’re done. But it will have been worth EVERY second.)

I don’t know who this Jess-person is over at Knopf, but here’s her attempt at Julia’s recipe. Looks good to me. Note that she says the stew really should only cook for 2 hours and not the 2½ or 3 that Julia says. Maybe that’s because our ovens are more powerful, Jess is told.

I like one variation on Boeuf Bourguignon. Instead of adding a bottle of wine to the stew as it cooks, you marinate the meat in it. That way, the chunks of beef are stained a deep burgundy before you even start browning it. Then you add the marinade to the the stew with whatever stock you were going to cook it in. (Marinating liquid is fine to cook with or make a sauce out of, as long as it’s boiled for a good three minutes. Of course, in this dish, it’s cooked for 2 hours, at least.)

So we’ve seen in Anne’s version of pot roast that she adds different vegetables after the meat has been cooking for awhile. There’s no reason that you couldn’t make her recipe as a stew. AND there’s no reason why you couldn’t use a single chuck roast in my ragout recipe and call it pot roast.

That’s when cooking becomes really fun. You learn how to handle the basic ingredients and you can move in lots of different directions. You could make a Greek stew with lamb and lots of oregano, bay leaves and lemon in the sauce. Or you could brown and braise a brisket, just like Anne does with her chuck roast and add carrots, sweet potatoes and prunes and call it Tzimmes. A pot roast cut up (before it’s cooked) is called a stew. A stew cooked in a bottle red wine with bacon and pearl onions is Boeuf Bourguignon.

Whatever you call it and however you make it, browned and braised meat is a wonderful foundation for hearty and delicious dishes in all their infinite variations.


astheroshe said...

i watched this episode and ran right out and bought a chuck roast. I love Anne she is amazing. I wish she was on The Chew . I love Carla HAll, but she is not natural in front of the camera. When Anne was on ..she was like magic.

Sue said...

Hiya Astheroshe,
And so did you love her recipe? Anne is so enthusiastic that she makes you want to reach your hand in and taste whatever she's making.

I only watched the Chew the first week. It was kind of painful when Mario wasn't on. I'm sure Carla will get better with time, but Anne does light up a television screen.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I know I shouldn't be too impatient for comment approval, but I have a spooky feeling my last attempt at a comment never processed properly. I think I remember my screen going crazy for a moment. Let me know and I'll try to remember what I posted.

Sue said...

I guess the gremlins got your comment. I wanna know what you said!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Ok. Let's hope this time it posts...

I have such mixed feelings on Anne Burrell. She's one of the few FN hosts who cooks real, recipes and shows usable technique, but her schtick is almost unwatchable, so I don't see her show much and didn't see this episode.

I have contemplated the pot roast/stew thing myself. I think people are very confused about what a "stew" is thanks to Rachael Ray who makes "stoup" and claims it's "thicker than a soup and thinner than a stew" implying that a stew is just like a soup - only thicker. Really, in the end, a stew is slow-braised meat and I guess lots of things can qualify.

I'm working on a beef stew recipe inspired by the one I ate in Italy. It will be more stew than pot rosat I suppose, but hopefully nothing like the stews I was raised on and HATED.

Sue said...

Well, hello there, Rachel,
I totally forgot about all that stoup stuff. You're right - it muddies the waters of the whole stew thing. To me, soup is a dish that's more liquid than not (although there's probably an exception somewhere) and you eat it with a spoon.

Keep testing your Italian stew recipes. How could that be bad?