I spent Sunday afternoon making this Venezuelan pot roast from Sam Sifton and The New York Times while I waited for the Ravens to lose in soul crushing fashion to the hated Steelers. Oh well... at least the food was good (and if I'm honest I'll say the game was good to, but it's never so rewarding for you team to lose "The Game of the Year"). A first for me here, in that I had never made caramel before, which is the base of the sauce and source of the color. The sauce never got quite as dark as the picture in the Times, and I wonder if my inexperience with making caramel was part of the issue... I was pretty scared of burning it (Why? I'm not sure... it's just sugar and water... and I could have just done it again if I ruined it) so I might have turned off the heat before it got dark enough. Here are Sifton's comments regarding the caramel sauce:
And so we begin with caramel, a chemistry-class lesson for the home. Sugar is dissolved in water and heated until the water evaporates and the sugar molecules break down, turning heavy and dark. Add to this sticky pool some vinegar and dry red wine, which impart savory, acidic notes to what will amount to a braising liquid, as well as some brown sugar for rustic depth. Pour the liquids carefully, for the caramel will spatter and hiss. Then allow the sauce to become whole again, stirring occasionally.It was heavy and sticky... but not uniformly dark... so I think I abandoned ship a little early. But the "savory, acidic notes" came through like a champ, so I can't say I'm disappointed really... it's just a note for next time to try to push it a little farther. Another interesting aspect, and not obvious from the picture, is that the roast itself really did turn a deep shade of velvet at midnight as it rested... it was more of a deep red when I was basting and turning it. I'm not sure what sugar chemistry led to that transformation, but it was pretty cool. Don't forget to cut against the grain when you are slicing up the beef... I forgot when I started, so I had my own little lab experiment between the two cuts... and the difference is epic.
I didn't even think to make rice with it... not reading Mr. Sifton's recommendations closely enough... but it's so obviously the perfect thing to soak up the amazing sauce that I'll be making some tonight for the... even better a day later (I hope)... leftovers.
All in all I was pretty pleased. Reminiscent of ropa veija because of the tenderness of the beef and presence of the peppers, but infinitely more complex in its flavors. Worth making on a free weekend afternoon... I bet it will impress.