It is my experience that everyone who likes their job has a part that they love. Beef Counts is that part of the gig for me. I don’t tend to look for reasons to leave the ranch. It’s a beautiful environment that feels more like home every day (I’ve lived here for like, two minutes basically). I have my first loves – The Rancher and Ranch Baby here. I have a freezer (or three) full of beef. My oven is broken, again (don’t ask.). But I have a grill, a smoker, and pretty much every electric kitchen appliance ever invented (thanks for hooking us up, Elliott-Coon wedding guests!!!). What I have going on here isn’t lost on me.
But I think to really understand what it means to count your blessings, and more importantly, be a blessing to others, you’ve got to leave the ranch. On April 1st, I joined other ranchers and our partners to serve lunch to women and children (just like me and RB) who do not have a safe, happy place to call home, let alone a way to put a nutritious beef meal on the table.
Through Beef Counts donations by Agri Beef Co., Haggen Food & Pharmacy and their customers occurring in the month of March, we were able to add over $20,500 worth of beef in our quest to “meat the need” for high quality protein in the food bank system. One such place where our partner Food Lifeline works to get meals to those who need them is Mary’s Place, a place where women and children effected by homelessness, often domestic abuse or illness can go to get everything from a hot meal to job resume help.
We enlisted our chef friends and Food Lifeline board members Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau (“The Chef in the Hat”) to make this meal extra special. Tom made Beef Chuck Roast with Merlot Gravy and Horseradish Gremolata, and Chef Thierry made the accompanying potato cakes and vegetables (avec lots of butter!). The chefs demonstrated the recipe to the ladies prior to Beef Counts volunteers serving the meal family style, to about 100 women and children seated at round tables. Later in the week, I had the opportunity to talk about the ranch and Beef Counts with the chefs on their KIRO Radio Seattle Kitchen show (interview starts around the 10 minute mark).
Something that really struck me was the sense of community present as all sat down for the meal. I and the rest of our Beef Counts crew can be counted as lucky to have joined the Mary’s Place community for an afternoon. Although the circumstances and issues rooted in the need for Mary’s Place are inherently negative, there was so much positivity in the personal exchanges and a warm, special meal getting into bellies that day.
It’s kind of how I feel about Beef Counts. Hunger is a negative reality in our communities that we cannot wish away. The beef community can’t really solve the root cause of it. But we sure as heck can do what we can to make a positive impact.
In the meantime, here is the braised beef roast recipe from the Tom Douglas kitchen:
Beef Chuck Roast with Merlot Gravy and Horseradish Gremolata/ Tom Douglas
3 to 4 pounds boneless chuck shoulder roast (or 5 pounds with bone)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All purpose flour, as needed for dredging
About 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
2 onions, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
2 carrots, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 cups Merlot, or other dry red wine
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish root
1½ teaspoons minced lemon zest
Combine the parsley, horseradish, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325º F. Season the chuck roast on all sides with salt and pepper, then dredge the meat on all sides in the flour, shaking off excess flour. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, over medium-high heat on the stovetop, heat the oil, then brown the meat on all sides, about 12 to 15 minutes total time. Remove the chuck roast, transferring it to a large platter, and set aside. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add another tablespoon or two of oil. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and black peppercorns for the last few minutes. To deglaze the pan, pour in the Merlot, bring to a simmer, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, scraping up any browned bits.
Return the chuck roast to the pot as well as any liquids that have collected on the platter and pour in the chicken stock. Bring the liquids to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover the pot with a lid and braise in the oven until the meat is fork tender, about 2½ to 3 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 200º F. Lift out the chuck roast and place in a clean pan. Cover the pan and keep the meat warm in the oven while you finish the sauce.
Pour the braising liquids from the Dutch oven through a sieve into a deep container, pressing on the vegetables to get as much liquid as possible. Discard the vegetables. Allow the liquids to rest about 5 minutes, then skim off all the fat with a ladle and discard. (A tall container like a large pitcher makes it easiest to remove the fat.) Pour the strained and skimmed braising liquid into a large sauté pan and reduce over high heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. You should end up with about 2 cups of sauce, about the consistency of heavy cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, slice the meat, spoon some of the sauce over, and garnish each serving with a sprinkle of the gremolata.