Make Mine a Pot Roast

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Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and The New York Times food section’s Minimalist column, tells Evan about his delicious pot roast recipe.

Pot Roast w/ Cranberries
4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 to 3 pound piece of chuck or brisket
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sherry vinegar or good wine vinegar
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 orange

1. Put the butter in a casserole or skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Put the sugar on a plate and dredge the meat in it until all the surfaces are coated. Reserve the remaining sugar. When the butter foam subsides, brown the meat on all sides -- this will take 15 minutes approx. -- seasoning it with salt and pepper as it browns.

2. When the meat is nicely browned, add the vinegar and cook for a minute, stirring.  Add the cranberries and remaining sugar and stir. Strip the zest from the orange (you can do it in broad strips, with a small knife or vegetable peeler) and add it to the skillet.  Juice the orange and add the juice also, along with a pinch of cayenne. Turn the heat to low and cover; the mixture should bubble but not furiously.

3.  Cook, turning the meat and stirring about every 30 minutes, for 2 hours or longer, or until the meat is tender.  When the meat is done, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Turn off the heat and let the roast rest for a few minutes, then carve and serve, with the serve.

Dusting the meat with some of the sugar makes the browning process go much more rapidly, and leaves behind a caramelized residue that is deglazed by the vinegar when you add it.

Most pot roasts depend for their flavor on the juices exuded by the meat itself; that's why tough, slow-cooking cuts like brisket or chuck are usually preferable.  But since the meat's contribution here is minimized by the powerful cranberry-based combination, a fast-cooking cut like tenderloin works well, reducing the cooking time to just over an hour. *Substitute a 2 to 3 pound piece of tenderloin (filet mignon) for the chuck and reduce cooking to about 1 hour, or until internal temp is 125 to 130 degrees (medium-rare); you can cook it longer than that if you like.