Mexican Pot Roast with Queso Fresco Polenta



We built the first fire of the season at House Morell on Sunday… it was the sort of perfect autumn day that begged for a pot roast.  And do I have a fabulous pot roast recipe to share with you.  It’s rich and tangy, sweet and spicy… comfort food with a twist.  I decided I should serve it with a rich and cheesy polenta, but mashed potatoes also complement this dish beautifully.

I’ve been wandering through some of my favorite cookbooks over the past few weeks… they’re like old friends to me.  This week, I pulled Sheila Lukins’ All Around the World Cookbook off the shelf.  It occurred to me I really should treat old friends better – it’s beat up, rather sticky, falling apart and covered in kitchen graffiti (ie notes in the margins adjusting ingredients to my liking.)  Then again, perhaps it’s like a beat-up, but adored teddy bear… the sign of a long and happy relationship.

I’ve been cooking – and tinkering with – Sheila’s Mexican Pot Roast for years.  Olives and golden raisins are added to the traditional carrots and tomatoes.  Orange, cinnamon and chipotle powder add flavor and depth.

And the lovely polenta – loaded with queso fresco and a dash of oregano, it’s a creamy, cheesy counterpoint to the spicy, tangy stew.

Build a fire, call some friends around, and tuck into this stew for this wonderful fall meal.

And you might even consider bringing your teddy bear along too.

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Mexican Pot Roast

Adapted from Sheila Lukins’ Mexican Pot Roast

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 beef brisket ( 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds)
  • steak seasoning to taste
  • 2 medium onions, halved and slivered
  • 8 medium carrots, cut into one-inch chunks (I found wonderful multi-colored carrots at the market)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 3 14-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes with roasted chilis
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • the zest and juice of one orange
  • 1 cup green olives with pimentos
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle steak seasoning over your brisket.  Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and brown it well on both sides.  Remove the meat to a platter, and cover with foil.

Pour off most of the fat in the casserole.  Add the onions and carrots; cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cinnamon and chipotle powder; cook one minute longer, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, beef broth, orange juice, the olives, raisins and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.

Return the meat to the casserole, placing it on the vegetables, and spoon some of the sauce.  Cover and bake for 2 hours.

Remove the pot roast to a board, scrape off the sauce, and cut it into thin slices on the diagonal and against the grain.  Return the meat to the casserole.  Cover the meat completely with the sauce.

Bake uncovered, basting occasionally with the sauce, until it is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer.  Serve hot, with a square of cheesy queso fresco polenta (recipe follows), and lots of sauce.

Cheesy Queso Fresco Polenta

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Rosemary Polenta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup good grated Parmesan

1 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco (if you can’t find queso fresco, crumbled feta could be substituted)

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan and most of the queso fresco… reserving 2 tablespoons. Pour into an 8×8 pan, smooth the top, and set aside until the brisket is finished.  Warm up the polenta again if need be, cut into nine squares, and serve a square with the brisket and vegetables.

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