Photo by Jim Scherer.This recipe is reminiscent of a pot roast made with onion-soup mix, but the flavors are true and pure--and nobody misses the excess sodium. (For a slow-cooker variation, see below.)
1 4-pound Beef chuck roast (see Ingredient note), trimmed of fat1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to tasteFreshly ground Pepper to taste4 teaspoons extra-virgin Olive oil, divided2 large Onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)4 cloves Garlic, minced1 teaspoon dried Thyme3/4 cup strong brewed Coffee2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar2 tablespoons Cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.2. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pot. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in coffee and vinegar; bring to a simmer. Return the beef to the pot and spoon some onions over it. Cover and transfer to the oven.4. Braise the beef in the oven until fork-tender but not falling apart, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer beef to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.5. Meanwhile, skim fat from the braising liquid; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Season with pepper. Carve the beef and serve with gravy. Slow-Cooker Variation: In Step 3, transfer the browned beef to a slow cooker and reduce coffe to just 1/2 cup. Add the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 4 1/2 to 5 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low. In Step 5, pour the liquid into a medium saucepan and continue as directed.
Ingredient Note: Although it is not the leanest cut of beef, chuck is still our choice for pot roast because it doesn't dry out during braising. You will find pockets of fat as you carve it, but they are easy to remove.
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