Beef à la Mode (Boeuf à la Mode) is the French variation of traditional pot roast. What sets it apart from an American-style pot roast is that it uses red or white wine (and sometimes tomato), while the original American pot roasts were made with just water. Traditional Beef à la Mode employs a technique called larding, where a special needle is used to thread long strips of pork fat through a tough cut of beef to add fat and flavor. While that sounds pretty awesome, I didn’t think it was fair to buy a needle just for one dish; so instead I did what many modern chefs do today, and cooked some bacon with the roast. I’ve seen some old Beef à la Mode recipes call for a cow foot to be added to the pot to help thicken and gelatinize the braising liquid; personally, I just used some gelatinous homemade beef stock instead.
I made a couple other slight modifications to this dish. Instead of celery, I used celery root, which imparts a similar flavor but is much heartier and more satisfying to eat (I bet it’s more nutritious, too). Secondly, I garnished the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and thinly sliced lemon zest to add a bit of brightness to the dish. The modifications definitely worked; my wife said this was the best pot roast I’ve ever made.
And yes, “à la Mode” means more than just “topped with ice cream”; it roughly translates to “in the style/modern”, meaning that when the French first started braising beef in wine it was in style. In that same sense, when Americans first started putting ice cream on pies (around the 1890s) it was considered stylish, so we adopted the French phrase. If you went to France and asked someone to bring you some “Tarte (Pie) à la Mode”, you’d probably just get funny looks.
Beef à la Mode (French Pot Roast)
3-5 lb chuck roast or boneless short ribs
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and black pepper
4oz bacon, pancetta, or salt pork, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley, divided
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock, more if needed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 celery root, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
zest of 1/2 lemon (1 tsp), thinly sliced
1. Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels, then rub all over with the ground nutmeg. Sprinkle both sides generously with kosher salt and black pepper, about 1/2 tsp each.
2. Warm a dutch oven on med/low heat, then add the bacon. Sauté, lowering the heat as needed, until crispy and the fat has rendered out, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon; there should be about 1 tbsp of liquid fat left in the dutch oven (if there’s less, add a tbsp of lard or coconut oil). Adjust the heat to medium/high and allow to come to temperature, about 1 minute.
3. Preheat your oven to 300F. Gently blot any accumulated liquid from the chuck roast with a paper towel, then add the roast to the dutch oven. Brown on both sides until a deep brown crust forms, about 3 minutes per side, then remove the roast and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add the diced onion, sautéing until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and wine, and deglaze. Return the bacon to the pot, then add the roast, thyme, half of the parsley, and the bay leaves. Pour enough stock to cover 3/4 of the roast, then bring to a simmer.
4. Cover the dutch oven and put it in the oven. Braise until almost tender, about 2 hours. Add the carrots and celery root and cook until tender, another 30-45 minutes.
5. Gently remove the roast and set aside to rest, covering loosely with tin foil. Strain the liquid and reserve the bacon and vegetables; set aside. Return the liquid to the dutch oven and simmer on med/high heat until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. As it reduces, slice the roast and arrange on a platter with the vegetables. Chop the remaining two sprigs of parsley and thinly slice the lemon zest, then combine. Pour the reduced liquid over the roast and vegetables, then garnish with parsley and lemon zest.