I've been eyeing this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, All About Braising, by Molly Stevens for a long time. But she emphasizes to try and make this in the early spring (April and May) when fresh local rhubarb is at its peak. So when Harry and I went to the market last weekend, I was seeking out fresh rhubarb and was pretty sure I'd be able to find it and indeed I did! I'm making this dish with the gorgeous chuck roast I bought at the farmer's market from Buckham Farms, a local farm here in Schoolcraft.
It's not a difficult recipe; braising is really a very easy technique, but there are a few steps to it. Let's just say it's not a quick weeknight dinner.
12-36 hours in advance, make the spice rub:
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries (I didn't have any of these so I left them out)
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 4-5 # chuck roast or beef brisket
1 pound fresh rhubarb
Make the spice rub: Combine the first three ingredients in a small dry skillet over medium heat and heat, shaking the pan frequently until the spices are fragrant and lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes. Let cool for a minute and grind the spices to a coarse powder in a spice grinder or small mortar and pestle. Add the salt and grind to combine.
Wipe down the meat with paper towels and rub the spice mixture over both sides of the meat. Lay the roast on a rimmed baking sheet, cover loosely and refrigerate for 12-36 hours.
The Aromatics and Braising Liquid
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or bacon drippings
1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup beef, veal or chicken stock (and maybe a little water)
2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler, each about 3 inches x 3/4 inch
2 leafy sage sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoons honey, more if needed at the end
Brown the meat: Heat the broiler on high. Slide the meat under the broiler so meat is about 4-5 inches from heat. Broil, rotating as necessary, until the surface is beautifully browned and crusty, but not charred, 2-5 minutes. Watch carefully as the meat can brown very quickly. Turn the meat over and brown till crisp on both sides. Remove and set aside. Lower oven temperature to 300.
Trim the Rhubarb: Trim both ends of the stalks of rhubarb, making sure to remove all traces of any leaves as rhubarb leaves are toxic. With a vegetable peeler, strip away the stringy outer layer from the rhubarb. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces. You should have 4 cups. I, however, did not. So I improvised as I often do. I had a beautiful Honeycrisp apple in the fridge that I peeled and added to the rhubarb mixture. That made it nearly 4 cups.
The braising liquid: Add the wine, bring to a boil, and boil until reduced by about three quarters, 5 minutes. Add the stock, 2 cups of the rhubarb, the orange zest, herb springs, bay leaf and 1 tablespoon honey. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil for a few minutes, stirring once or twice, to dissolve the honey and meld the flavors. Lower the meat into the pot. The liquid should come about 1/2 up the sides of the meat. If it does not, add a little water or chicken stock.
The braise: Cover the pot with parchment paper, set the lid in place and slide the pan into the lower third of the oven to braise. After 10-15 minutes, check it to see that the liquid isn't simmering too fiercely. If it is, lower the oven temperature about 10-15 degrees. Then continue to braise at a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes. Then turn the roast with tongs.
Braise for another 1 1/2 hours, then turn the roast again and add the remaining two cups of rhubarb and apples in this case.
I've cooked many braises over the years and my experience is that a braise ALWAYS tastes better a day or two later. Always. So I put this one in the fridge overnight and the next afternoon, I pulled it out and this is what it looked like:
It looks like a lot of fat but it's really not. I just remove most of the fat and save it to use in sautéing vegetables, to fry eggs, as a base for soups and basically anything you would cook in bacon grease. I then shred the meat, removing big pieces of fat, gristle and bone. The bones I save and freeze to make beef stock.
And this is what you've got left. I slowly heat it over low heat and serve it over anything from mashed potatoes, polenta, or roasted sweet potatoes (which is how I served it for dinner).
Chuck Roast Braised with Rhubarb, Apples and Honey
served with roasted local asparagus