There's a reason the French love braised beef, simmered slowly for hours until it's just short of falling apart. Whether you call it bourguignon or daube as the French do, or pot roast or beef stew, it's a sumptuous, belly-warming meal that fills the house with its luscious aroma and can feed a crowd or keep a couple in dinners and lunches for days.
It's also adaptable to different seasonings depending on what's in your pantry or still hanging on in your winter garden. A classic Provençale beef daube calls for red wine, tomatoes and herbs, while an Italian stracotto—translated as "overcooked" for some reason—calls for…well…red wine, tomatoes and herbs. One may lean more heavily toward bay leaf and thyme while the other includes rosemary, but it's poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh as far as I'm concerned.
Same for a beef stew or pot roast. One may include cutting the beef into chunks and browning first in a dusting of flour mixed with salt and pepper, or throwing in potatoes for the last few minutes, but as long as the meat is simmered until it's about to slip the bonds of structural integrity, it's good to go.
Fortunately it looks like the Pacific Northwest will have at least a few more weeks of what I like to call braising weather before spring temperatures begin in earnest, so don't put away your stew pot just yet. The recipe below is for my version of bourguignon, but don't be afraid to sub in other vegetables or herbs.
Pot Roast Bourguignon
This is extremely easy to make, but you'll need to get it in the oven four hours before dinner or make it the day before. Cutting back on the time in the oven makes for a less-than-stellar experience.
4 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" strips
1 3-5 lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped in 1/4" slices (optional)
4 carrots, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 lb. mushrooms, halved vertically and cut into slices
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary (from two 6-inch sprigs)
1 qt. (32 oz.) roasted tomatoes
3-4 c. red wine
Preheat oven to 375°.
Put bacon in a large braising pot that can go in the oven and fry till fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add onions and garlic and sauté 2-3 min., then add carrots and celery and sauté 2-3 min. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté till soft. Stir in tomatoes and herbs, then add wine. Sprinkle roast generously with salt and pepper add to pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and place pot in oven, baking for 2 hours.
Remove meat from pot and cut in 1/4" slices, then return the sliced meat to the pot, covering with sauce and vegetables. Cover and bake for another 1 1/2 hrs.
Remove to a serving dish. Serve with boiled or roasted potatoes or a rich, creamy polenta.