Recipe: Caribbean Pot Roast with Seychelloise Squash Chatni
By Susan Simon
For me, one of the most satisfying cool weather meals involves either braising or stewing a nice chunk of meat. Over the years I’ve made assorted pot roasts and stews using a variety of ingredients.
Is there a big difference between braising and stewing? Well, yes. However, the choice of meat – beef, pork or lamb – used for both styles should be a tough cut from the outside of the animal (the shoulder, butt or ribs) with plenty of connective tissue that will break down and self-lubricate the dish as it slowly cooks. For both braising and stewing, the lid needs to be tightly secured to the cooking pot, but then their paths diverge.
A braised dish is cooked with enough liquid to cover the piece of meat about a third, or at the most, half-way and is usually cooked on top of the stove. A stew is cooked in enough liquid to cover the meat and then some, and can be cooked in the oven. While I like the results of both methods, I usually braise so I can more easily watch what’s going on.
I like the classic Italian brasato, and stufato – essentially, braised or stewed meat. Both dishes contain more or less the same kinds of ingredients; aromatic vegetables; carrots, onions and celery, hard herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage, tomato sauce, wine and broth.
I also like to both modify and ramp up the dish by adding different combinations of ingredients that I have discovered over the years. Years ago an Italian friend told me that she had arrived at her country home with a piece of meat that she fully intended to turn into a sublime brasato. Upon her arrival she discovered that her pantry was empty except for some coffee and a bit of vermouth. She cut up the beef, added it to a pot of coffee and vermouth then declared it the best brasato ever.
I’ve fooled around with that recipe and combined aspects of it with a favorite West Indian pot roast to come up with this recipe. I like to serve the dish with another hot-island preparation – Seychelloise-style squash chatni (patois for chutney), which on those islands out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is just about anything that’s made with lots of fried onions and a shot of something tart – in this case, lime juice.
Here’s a hot little meal for a cold winter’s day (if it ever arrives…).
Caribbean Pot Roast with Seychelloise Squash Chatni
2½ – 3 lbs beef shoulder plus the blood that has been released
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary needles
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup red vermouth
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1. Place the beef and blood in a large bowl. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, ginger, cloves, orange juice, and vermouth. Toss together to thoroughly combine the ingredients, then coat the meat with them. Let marinate for 3-4 hours.
2. In a brazier pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil until they are soft, 10-15 minutes. Remove the meat from the marinade and sear in the onions for 2 or 3 minutes on both sides. Stir the tomato paste and salt into the marinade and cover the meat with it. Place a lid on the pan and simmer, turning the meat every now and then, until it’s falling apart tender, 3-3½ hours.
3. Remove the meat from the pan, place on a cutting board and slice on the diagonal. Place the meat on a serving platter or individual plates and cover with the sauce to serve.
4. Serve with Seychelloise-style mashed butternut squash. Peel and seed a large butternut squash. Cut into 1-inch chunks and steam until tender. Meanwhile, slice 2 onions and fry in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until deep brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the steamed squash to a large mixing bowl. Mash, then add the fried onions, the grated zest and juice of a juicy lime, ½ teaspoon salt and stir to combine all of the ingredients. The mash can be made ahead of time and added to a baking dish. Heat to serve.
Susan Simon is the author of a James Beard award-winning book and a shopping guide to Marrakech, and has translated a culinary guide to Italy. She writes a weekly food column for the Hudson-Greene Media Group. She also writes the What We Eat Now series for Nantucket Today magazine. She lives in Hudson, N.Y.