A recent trend with chefs is the concept of using the whole animal. I appreciate this approach as one way to show respect to and gratitude for the life given. The way I practice this in my own kitchen is to make use of every bit of each piece of meat I cook. It’s surprisingly easy as well, and a chuck roast is well suited to this. I’ll share my own cooking techniques with each stage, but those can of course be adapted to your own tastes. This only an illustration of the concept to serve as a springboard to your own ideas on full use.
I thaw the chuck roast a couple days ahead of time in the refrigerator, kept in the butcher paper in a pan. This will leave some juices in the wrapper and pan. They can be saved and added to the soup (more on this later), unless I give it to my dog Simba as an extra special treat. Just don’t rinse them down the drain!
A cast iron roaster is ideal, but any pan with sides a few inches deep and a lid works well. I sprinkle the roast with a couple tablespoons of lightly peppered flour, and brown it quickly on the stovetop on both sides in a couple tablespoons high heat oil (or if you have fat saved from Date Creek bacon, so much the better). Topping it with several thick slices of an onion, I pour over it 1 cup tomato juice mixed with 1 cup water. I put a lid on the roaster, cooking it slowly in the oven at 250 degrees, for several hours. This long and slow cooking will leave the roast absolutely fork tender. On an ongoing basis, I accumulate my vegetable and herb trimmings in a freezer bag. These trimmings, covered with water, are simmered in a separate pan in the oven while the roast is cooking. When the roast shreds easily with only a fork, at about 4-6 hours, I add a few peeled and quartered potatoes, and several peeled (or not) carrots cut in fairly thin pieces. I turn the oven up to 350 degrees, uncovered, for another hour. This will leave the potatoes browned, carrots glazed, and the roast with a deeply flavored crust while remaining fork tender, reducing the liquid to a rich pan juice. This my version of a technique called braising. The veggie broth is strained and refrigerated, and those trimmings added to the compost bucket.
With just 2 adults in my family, there’s plenty for a second dinner, reheated right in the roaster. After the second dinner, I cut the best of the remaining roast in small pieces or slightly shredded, for a variety of casseroles. I make roast beef hash, enchilada torte, beef tacos, and/or shepherd’s pie. If there are leftover potatoes, onions, or carrots, I chop and add these to the following soup.
The rest, bones and all, goes back in the roaster, with enough of the veggie broth to cover, and is cooked overnight at 225 degrees. In the summer, to avoid the oven heat, I just deglaze the roaster (add a few cups water to the pan and simmer till I can scrape all the browned bits into the broth) and then add this, the roast and veggie broth to the crockpot overnight. The next day I clean all the remaining bits of meat off the bone, and set any unusable bits and all the fat aside for dog treats. I freeze the fat in teaspoon sizes for Simba, as too much at once can cause pancreatitis.
The finely chopped bits of roast beef and broth are now the perfect base for a variety of soups, such as beef barley (just add a handful of uncooked barley and shredded carrots), beef vegetable, beef and rice, or beef noodle. This usually makes enough soup for several more servings.
Hands-on time for all these meals is actually very minimal, as most of the time is “oven time”. The savings versus purchasing the soup is substantial, to say nothing about how MUCH better it tastes! And you’re not exposed to the hormone-disrupting BPA lining of most canned soups. By building several meals from one roast, it is incredibly cost-effective to buy Date Creek beef, as no store-bought roast brings the deep rich flavor to hold up to each step. And back to where I started, this maximum use approach honors the life that was given, and is a small way in which I express my gratitude.