When I was growing up, carne mechada, our version of pot roast, was a Sunday dinner ritual. What's good about pot roast, my mother's or any other version, is that you can use the best cut of meat or the least expensive. It can be eye round, beef shoulder or boneless chuck. In our family, we used a bottom round cut. That's the way it has been for generations.
I'm told that the origin of pot roast in the USA is New England. In the old days they called it "Yankee Pot Roast." And, as with our Caribbean version, the benefit of the dish was that it uses tougher cuts of meat, which become tender and flavorful after slow braising since slow cooking tenderizes the meat. Our version is more seasoned that the standard Yankee Pot Roast. Also, in most standard pot roast recipes, they add carrots. In my mother's recipe, she added green bell pepper (pimento) and potatoes; and we served it with steamed rice. The dish is delicious and simple to prepare. Added note: the recipe is from my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America.
CARNE MECHADA (POT ROAST)
3 pounds bottom round beef, trimmed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 pound lean cured ham, washed and diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rounds about 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings
1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
6 small russet potatoes, peeled, washed and quartered
1. Rinse meat under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Put garlic cloves, oregano, peppercorns, salt and cilantro in a mortar, and pound until crushed. Add olive oil and mix.
3. With a knife, make small slits in various parts of the meat. Rub seasoning into the meat and stud the slits with pieces of diced ham. Set aside and let stand 10 minutes.
4. In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, heat the vegetable oil over moderate-high heat, add pot roast and brown lightly on all sides (about 5 minutes).
5. Add bell pepper, onion rings, water and tomato sauce. bring to a rapid boil. reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until fork-tender.
6. Add potatoes. Check liquid, adding 1/4 cup water, if necessary. Cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes.
7. Remove roast from kettle. Slice meat and arrange on heated serving platter surrounded by potatoes. Spoon on some pan juices; pass remainder in a small bowl or gravy boat.
Yield: 4-5 servings.
Photo: courtesy of El Cata Vinos