Beef chuck, or shoulder, offers excellent cuts for stews and braises, because the meat is extremely tasty and, over long cooking, all the connective tissue adds flavor and body to the dish. For this braise, I especially like the compact chunk of meat cut off the top of the shoulder blade, which is known by many names, including “top blade” or “top chuck shoulder” or “flat-iron”. This piece is usually sliced and packaged as steaks, but ask your butcher to give you a whole top blade, as a roast. The more common beef chuck or shoulder roast, which comes from the underside of the shoulder, would be fine in this recipe, too.
- 4 ounces thick-sliced slab bacon, cut into pieces
- 3 medium onions, cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4-to-5-pound boneless beef shoulder roast (preferably a top blade or top chuck shoulder)
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
- Two 12-ounce bottles flavorful beer or ale
- 6 cups Chicken Stock, or as needed
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the chunks of bacon and onion and a teaspoon of the salt in the food processor, and pulse together to a fine textured pestata.
Trim the beef of fat, and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the flour on a plate, and dredge the roast thouroughly; shake off any excess. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef well, until it is nicely colored all over, about 10 minutes. Push the meat to one side of the pan, drop the pestata into the pan, and stir and cook it on the pan bottom until it has dried out and just begins to stick, about 5 minutes. Move the meat back to the center of the pan, drop in the bundle of thyme sprigs, and pour the beer in around the roast. Bring the beer to a boil, stirring and scraping any brown bits from the pan bottom. Pour in enough stock so the braising liquid comes halfway up the sides of the roast, and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon salt all over. Cover the pan, bring the liquid quickly to a boil, and then set it into the heated oven.
After 2 hours, lift the cover, drop the 3 tablespoons mustard into the braising liquid, stir carefully, cover again, and braise another hour. Remove the cover, and continue the oven braising, stirring the bottom of the pan occasionally, to thicken and intensify the flavor of the sauce, about 30 minutes more. Remove the bundle of herbs. Lift the meat onto a cutting board, and cut it crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Fan the slices on a warm platter, skim off any fat from the surface of the pan sauce, and ladle some of it over the meat. Serve right away, passing more sauce at the table.