To Those Who Wait

I’ve never been so good with being patient. As much as I don’t like saying it’s just not in my nature . . . it’s just not in my nature. Metaphorically speaking, I run the red lights, I jump the gates, and I read the last page first.
So I don’t know what possessed me to think braised beef – that’s not true, actually; it’s that Marcella Hazan makes things sound fantastically good, and taken in by the minimal ingredients and ridiculous ease of the recipe, I skip right over the step that says three and a half hours.
I’ll warn you right now: this is a pretty stupid thing to do. I ended up spending about half an hour on prep, and then having to ask Sara to hold on the phone every half hour as I turned the roast, and then having to defend myself when at 930 I had not yet eaten dinner why I wasn’t just going to make a pb&j and be done with it.
But my point, if I have one, is to butcher Phil Collins: You can’t hurry braised beef; no, you just have to wait. Perhaps not surprisingly, I caved when at 10pm I still hadn’t eaten and took the roast out. It was definitely done – the meat thermometer shot way up – but only the ends were that silky fork-tenderness that you want in a good pot roast. I shoved it in the refrigerator, left the dishes for the next day, and went to bed.

it is difficult to explain, when it photographs like that,
all medusa-looking with the onions
, why this is so utterly good you
should try it, but really, it just is.

I think the results could have been achieved if I’d just waited a tiny bit more for it to cook Tuesday, but letting it sit works just as well – and fools you into being patient. As if by magic, the middle slices of beef I’d thought looked tough that night have become tender, moist, and full of flavor - even when reheated in the microwave. I can't
actually vouch for how it tastes the first night it's made since I gave up, but I can assure you it's delicious a day or so after.
This dish goes fantastically with oven-roasted sweet potatoes. My major note is that this is probably much better started on a weekend afternoon than a weekday evening.

adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

~ 1/4 lb reduced sodium hardwood smoked bacon
3 1/2 lbs boneless beef roast (such as round rump)
5 medium onions sliced thinly
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Cut the bacon into narrow strips about 1/4 inch wide. Use half the strips to lard the meat: assuming you don't have a larding needle (I certainly don't) insert a thin, long knife along the grain of the meat to make a puncture. Using a hard chopstick, or your fingers if you get desperate, push the slice of bacon into the meat.
Choose a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot. Spread the sliced onions on the bottom of the pot (don't panic if it looks like you won't have any room left) and distribute the remaining strips of bacon over the onions.
Season the beef roast well with salt and pepper and nestle on top of the bacon-covered onions. Cover the pot tightly - if the lid does not provide a tight fit, place a sheet of aluminum foil between it and the pot and crimp down a bit to cover. Put on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven.
Cook for about three and a half hours, until the meat feels tender when prodded with a fork -- alternatively, cook the meat for two to two and a half hours, get frustrated because you're hungry already, eat a breadstick and put the roast in the refrigerator for the next day. I swear it's magic. Turn the roast after the first 30 minutes, and every 30 to 40 minutes thereafter.
When done, remove and slice the meat. Drain some fat from the pan with a turkey baster. Pour the remaining contents of pan juices, drippings, and onions over the meat and serve warm.
To reheat: take slices of the meat, either left whole or peeled along the grain with your fingers into strips, cover with onions, and microwave for two minutes or so on high.


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