This is adapted from a recipe in Cook's Magazine which was adapted from a recipe from Mary Todd Lincoln (if I remember the article correctly). It is EASY and would be a great thing to serve if you have someone you want to impress. Just try it once first so you have some confidence on the day you are trying to impress said individual(s). I'm documenting the full set of instructions since some people are more experienced cooks than others and this is a GREAT recipe for a very novice cook.
This is an excellent recipe for a weekend. Start the liver soaking (optional) at least 8 hours before you want to serve and start working on the rest of it 4-6 hours before you want to serve.
Grass-fed beef roast (fatty cut) or short ribs
Celtic brand sea salt, coarse grain
Onions (+ fennel / leeks / celery / whatever)
Extra virgin olive oil
Liquid (wine / stock / water)
Step One: Soak the liver
Before cooking with liver you want to soak it in fresh lemon juice for at least 4 hours. According to various sources (Nourishing Traditions cookbook, for one) this will help draw impurities out of the liver and improve the texture. We do this whenever we use liver for any recipe. I am not the best planner so sometimes my 4 hours is a little short and other times it turns into 24 hours. The liver is very forgiving. I soak it in the lemon in a glass dish in the fridge, with a lid on top.
I am not a huge fan of liver but I am a huge fan of the nutrients it imparts and for some reason my body slowly begins craving liver now that I am eating it more regularly. Even if you do not like liver, try it in this recipe. The nutrients from the liver leach into the gravy liquid while the pot roast cooks. It is a sneaky way of making this gravy ultra nourishing. The bonus is that it turns out my girls crave the liver cooked this way. Even if you discard the liver meat after cooking you will have added to the flavor of your gravy AND boosted the nutrients you feed your family.
Step Two: Salt your meat
Rub about 1.5 Tbsp of sea salt onto the surface of the meat and let it rest on the counter for approximately one hour. I usually rub on the salt and about 15 minutes later I start prepping my onions. I definitely short change the hour and at other times get distracted and it sits for just over an hour. It is still always delicious (the best recipes are forgiving recipes, no?). I used to set the meat on a rack, per the magazine recipe's instructions but I don't like the extra cleaning of the rack so lately I just salt it and set it on the paper it was wrapped in and it seems to be fine.
If you want some yummy roasted garlic or want to impart a garlic flavor to your meat cut a few slices in the meat with a sharp knife and put a few cloves in the meat. I usually prefer just to put the garlic straight in the bottom of my dutch oven in step 3 but my dad is more of a "garlic nestled in the meat" kinda guy. Of course, this past weekend when he was here I forgot the garlic altogether, so that is fine too!
Step Three: Veggies
Cut off the ends of the onions, chop them in half, and peel off the dried layer(s). Set the flat side down and thinly slice the onions. I usually use around 2 very large onions. If you have some fennel or leeks or celery and would like to put them in as well then slice them thinly also. By thinly I am talking about 1/8-1/4 inch slices.
Add the thinly sliced vegetables and some olive oil (drizzle a time or two around the pan - maybe 2 Tbsp or so) and cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to cook them enough that the onions start to turn translucent but you are not trying to caramelize them, which can take hours. They will begin to caramelize during the cooking process. I haven't decided whether the major importance of this step is in the beginning to cook down the onions or if it is just to reduce the volume of onions so there is room in the dutch oven for your roast!
Step Four: Prepare to throw it in the oven
When ready, pile up the onions in the middle and set the roast on the pile of onions.
This is probably the only important part of this recipe as the rest of the recipe is something that is in every experienced cook's repertoire. However, most of my friends do an extra step where they brown the meat and my big A-HA cooking moment was realizing you don't have to do that somewhat annoying and time consuming step. The pile of onions will keep your roast out of the liquid as it cooks and not let it stick to the bottom of the pan at the same time. You will get a browned roast without the extra work of browning it first. A-HA!!!
Add about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of liquid. I use homemade beef stock if I have it. Otherwise a little dry white wine or water will work. If you didn't use white wine then add about a Tbsp of the champagne vinegar. Finally, throw any herbs into the liquid you want to include. Bay leaves and thyme are my stand-bys but if you have other favorites feel free to add them too. Tuck the lemon-soaked liver into the liquid. Make sure it is in the liquid (versus the roast that you want to keep out of the liquid). This is also the time to drop in some garlic directly into the pot if you want to do that. Or set it on top of the meat if you want it baked. Yum!
Step Five: Slow cooked goodness
Put the lid on your dutch oven and pop it in the oven at anywhere from 275 (best temp) to 325. If I'm running late on time I cook at 325 and it takes about 2.5 hours for a 2.5 pound roast. If I have enough time I cook at 275 and it takes about 3.5 hours for a 2.5 pound roast. These times are approximate as my life is too busy to track these details carefully. But it is a very forgiving recipe and I've never been disappointed. If you pull the roast out of the oven and it isn't falling apart easily then give it another 30 minutes or so.
Step Six: The best gravy EVER!
All this typing is making me HUNGRY! Once your roast is finished then take it (and the liver if you added liver) out of the pot and set it on a serving plate and cover to keep it warm. Next, remove the bay leaves and any other herbs that need to be removed (I use fresh thyme and take it out here so I don't have to worry about the stems poking anyone in the gravy). Then get all the flavor off the sides of your dutch oven by using a wooden spoon and rubbing the onions on the sides of the pot to pull all the glutamates (the fancy word for yummy goodness) into the liquid for gravy. Finally, pour all the liquid / onion mixture into a stainless steel bowl and use a stick blender to blend it. Or pour it into your blender and blend it. Or do this step in a food processor, but a quick note that if you can keep it out of plastic as you do not want any chemicals leaching into your amazing food product.
So that's it!!! I'm sure I've missed something in this write-up so leave me a note if you have a question and I will edit the post as necessary. This is E-A-S-Y and you will look like a rock star. When people rave you can just sit back, smile, and give thanks to Mary Todd Lincoln!