I love pot roast. Like, really love it. John, my husband, does not so much. I guess you could say he tolerates it. So I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to make what is essentially pot roast. This dish really qualifies more as a stew due to the amount of liquid present, but at the end of the day braised chuck roast is braised chuck roast—and by that I mean it is delicious.
This dish is adapted from a recipe in Najmieh Batmanglij’s New Food Of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. John bought it for me for Christmas—when I get cookbooks from John, unless I have really stressed that I wanted that particular one the most, you can bet he buys the one that looks the most like food he wants to eat. So I got, in addition to a baking book I wanted the most of all, an Indian cookbook and a Persian cookbook. Which is not to say that I did not want them, it is more to say that I wanted them the same amount as other cookbooks, and it is not at all surprising that John chose these. (Random aside: I have a cookbook problem, I collect them and they dominate all of my wish lists). The book, by the way, is beautiful–loads of color photographs and beautiful culinary writings and artwork from ancient Persia and modern Iran. This is the first recipe I have made from it, but I am sure it will not be my last.
I immediately flagged Lamb Shank Soup with Yellow Split Peas and Meat Paste as looking like a promising recipe to try with a beef chuck. The author recommends trying the recipe with beef, and even if she hadn’t, I tend to freely substitute beef for lamb. We like the taste better and it is cheaper and easier to find—both locally (our beef comes from a farm north of Columbus) and in your basic supermarkets. Frequently when cooking an authentic traditional food—i.e., something international or from a particular culture—I will adhere very closely to the recipe, especially when making it for the first time. But otherwise—and even sometimes in those cases—I am a fiddler—both in method and ingredients. I find it hard to stick to the recipe. I stuck to this one pretty well in terms of ingredients, but Batmanglij wants us to remove all of the stew ingredients, mash them into a paste and serve them separately. Honestly, I just couldn’t find it in me to take the time. Also, I made the dish as a long, slow braise—I browned my meat and cooked it all day where she would have taken about 2 ½ hours and used smaller pieces of meat. But I still think my final results were pretty close to the intended result. Especially after braising all day so that everything kind of fell apart and thickened the soup anyway. Speaking of falling apart—I did learn not to put the split peas in at the beginning of the cooking, as they basically totally disintegrated and I would have preferred to be able taste them separately.
Everyone really liked this meal. I served it with salad (John is in charge of salad—I am always so caught up with whatever I am cooking that I forget to make one and then I bemoan the lack of fresh leafy greens in our diet) and next time I might also serve it with bread. Maybe I will make some tomorrow with our leftovers–I can tell already this will make excellent leftovers. The girls really cleaned their plates—Alex went so far as to drink her bowl! I have found that braised meat dishes are always a big hit with toddlers as the meat is so easy to chew.
Persian Shredded Beef Stew with Yellow Split Peas and Potatoes
Adapted from: Lamb Shank Soup with Yellow Split Peas and Meat Paste, Food Of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
3 ½ lbs bone-in beef chuck
2 large onions, quartered
6-8 cups vegetable stock
1 cup yellow split peas
1 t ground turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
8-10 baby potatoes (any color would be fine)
1 28 oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, juice drained
1 T tomato paste
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t allspice
Juice of one lime (use 2 if not juicy)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Start by browning a bone-in piece of chuck roast in a large dutch oven. I prefer bone-in, as does the author, but I know it can be a pain to find, in which case don’t worry about it. Remove the browned meat and throw in 2 large onions, quartered. Cover that with about 60 oz of vegetable stock (she called for water but I prefer the more intense flavor from stock) and bring it to a boil. Put the meat, with its juices, back into the pot, as well as the turmeric. Cover the pot securely, either with a lid or foil, and place the dutch oven into the preheated oven and leave for 2 hours.
After the meat has been cooking for 2 hours, pull the dutch oven out and add in the split peas, potatoes, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice and lime juice. Gently stir to disperse the paste and spices and return to the oven. Let cook another 3 hours or until the meat has fallen off of the bone, the potatoes are tender and the meat easily shreds.
I served this dish by roughly chopping the cooked potatoes and shredding the beef in the bottom of each bowl. I then ladled the soup, with split peas, onion and tomatoes, on top of it. You could also mash the potatoes and meat or you could serve the potatoes and meat in large chunks.