With an Irish mother and a Canadian father, Deb Roberts didn’t grow up with what she calls the “typical American family.”
They were living in Massachusetts and didn’t have much family in the States, so they adopted their neighbors. “They were quite worldly,” she remembers, and as Roberts grew older, she and her family started to travel more and more; as her world grew, so did her definition of “food.”
Roberts, who has lived in Texas for seven years, continues to cook from all the places she’s visited. “I fall back on French and Italian recipes because I’ve traveled there and they are classic,” she says. “But I enjoy worldly cuisine, and I try to adapt cuisines to our area.” It wasn’t long after living in Central Texas that she noticed the similarities with parts of France, especially with the wines and what kind of herbs and ingredients grow well here, including lavender.
Earlier this month, she made a Provençal Wine-Brined Beef Roast inspired by those connections and posted photos to Instagram as @the_domistress. (That’s the name of a food blog she hopes to launch this summer.) The dish calls for a 24-hour brine in white wine and Provençal aromatics — marjoram, rosemary and thyme — from her herb garden.
I love her technique of broiling the meat and vegetables just before serving, not only to reheat them but also to form a nice little crust on the top. It’s a farmhouse dish that works just as well here as it does in Provence.
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Provençal Wine-Brined Beef Roast
This is my recipe for a Provençal-style oven beef roast, or pot roast, that is the result of years of tinkering with flavors and methods. It may take some time, but that’s half the fun and can be prepared well ahead and reheats very nicely.
Here, I used a simple chuck roast, but a bottom round produces equally excellent results. When selecting your cut, be sure to check that it has some nice fat veining as this will ensure a moist roast. I employed classic French brining and braising techniques that encourage both a flavorful and tender result. In keeping with the theme, I used a dry French-style white wine, a sauvignon blanc that I purchased locally from Fall Creek Vineyards.
The roast can be brined for several days, if you have the patience, but I have found, however, 24 hours is perfectly sufficient. Should you choose to brine it any longer than 24 hours be sure your meat is fully submerged in the brining solution as this will help impede it from becoming spoiled through the introduction of bacteria formed from exposure to air. I often weight the top of the roast with a heavy lid that fits inside the circumference of the pot.
— Deb Roberts
For the brine:
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1 bottle (about 3 1/2 cups) dry white wine, larger the roast the more wine necessary to submerge it
1/2 cup olive oil
2 yellow onions, quartered
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. whole peppercorn
1 tsp. whole allspice
2 bay leaves
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 (5 to 6 lb.) chuck or bottom round beef roast, trimmed
For the roast:
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 to 4 cups beef stock, enough to cover roast half way up
2 yellow onions, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lb. whole fingerling potatoes
4 large carrots, cut into 2-inch segments
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 sprigs each, fresh rosemary, marjoram and thyme
2 to 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup leaves of fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
In a deep casserole dish or a vessel that will adequately submerge the meat within the brine mixture (a brining bag or oversized heavy duty zip bag works also) mix ingredients of the brine mixture and add the roast. Submerge the roast beneath the surface of the brine. Refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 3 days. There is no need to turn.
To cook the roast: Heat the oven to 285 degrees. In a small bowl, blend together flour, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Set aside. Remove roast from brine and discard liquid. Pat dry roast. Evenly coat the beef with the flour mixture.
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the roast to the pot and sear each side about a minute. Remove roast to a plate to rest. Add quartered onions to the pot and cook for an additional minute.
Add the vermouth and about 3/4 cup of the stock to the pot and with a whisk, deglaze the bottom of the pot making sure to lift all the yummy goodness. Carefully add your roast back into the pot. Add remaining vegetables and herbs and cover with enough stock to go half way up the roast.
Cover and cook for about 4 hours or until fork tender, check the status 30 minutes prior. Each cut is slightly different,
; so start checking after 3 hours.
Once appropriate tenderness is achieved, remove pot from oven and with a slotted spoon remove roast to a board to rest. Fish out the vegetables and place in a shallow roasting pan and set aside. If desired, pour the juices from the pot into a pitcher-type fat separator, drain excess fat and return the liquid to the pot. This step is advisable, but not necessary.
(Hint: If you do not own a fat separator and if time allows, transfer the liquid to a casserole dish and place in freezer for about an hour at least; the fat will rise to the surface and can be easily removed.)
After about 30 minutes or sufficient time to allow roast to be handled, cut out and remove any excess fat and sinewy membranes, even if it means dismantling the roast some. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add equal parts cold water and cornstarch and stir with a fork forming a slurry. Return pot and liquid to stove top and over medium-high heat reduce until the juices are rich and emboldened, if they are not already.
A few tablespoons at a time, add cornstarch to the gravy liquid while whisking vigorously, allowing it to boil between additions and until desired thickness is achieved. Gravy will continue to thicken as it cools. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off heat and return the roast to the pot. Heat oven to 550 degrees or broil. Place both roast and gravy pot under the broiler alongside the pan of vegetables. Watching continuously, allow the vegetables to turn golden brown and the surface of the roast to form a toasty top, about 2 to 4 minutes depending on the heat of your oven.
Remove vegetables and roast from the oven. Transfer roast to a deep serving dish and ladle in vegetables and gravy. Garnish with parsley if desired.
— Deb Roberts