I grew up eating this style Portuguese Pot Roast, which is marinated in wine and spice and was used as a variation to our more traditional Yankee Pot Roast my Mom often served. We lived in an area of New England with a large population of people from Portugal and the Azores Islands. We have some family members and friends from Portugal, so I have no idea who first introduced my Mom to this recipe but it is one we’ve enjoyed now for decades. The flavorful, slightly spicy, tomato-based sauce is much different from a traditional pot roast.
To speed along the morning preparation, I prepare the recipe inside the crock insert the night before. I then cover and place it in my refrigerator overnight. If you don’t have a removable crock pot insert, you could use a shallow baking dish or a gallon sized zip-top bag inside a dish (for support and to catch any leaks). This allows the roast to marinate in the wine and it imparts a delicious flavor to the meat. The next morning, I remove it from the refrigerator and pop it into the crock pot base and set it to cook.
The broth is fragrant and flavorful with a depth of flavor from the wine and a touch of spiciness from the red pepper flakes. The potatoes and carrots are tender and the meat is moist and delicious. After you thicken the broth and shred the meat, you can choose to dunk it all back into the sauce to grab and hold the gravy onto every delicious bite of the meat. I served it with gravy on the side so everyone could decide how much of the sauce they wanted on their dinner. This made a quick and flavorful weeknight meal.
TO SEAR OR NOT TO SEAR:
Contrary to popular belief, searing meat doesn’t seal in the moisture or result in a juicier finished product. It does, however, give the meat an incredible depth of flavor and gives the meat a more appealing color in the resulting dish. Searing the meat is not necessary for the cooking process. The meat will cook just fine without browning it first. But I do believe that the depth of color and flavor gained in this step are well-worth the extra effort. But it’s up to you whether you want to brown the meat before braising.
If you wish to brown the meat before putting it into the Crock Pot, you can do it either before it hits the marinade or the following morning after the marinating process is finished. If you chose the latter, remove the roast from the marinade wiping off as much of the marinade as possible (reserving the marinade for the braise) and then pat it very dry with paper towels. The roast must be patted dry to make sure a good browning of the meat – otherwise, it will steam in the marinade juices instead of searing the outside. Do this in a pre-heated skillet (I use cast-iron) over very high heat, cook the meat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. It is important that the pan is very hot. Afterward, transfer the roast to the Crock Pot and cover it with the marinade and vegetables. Cover and cook per the recipe directions.
I sear mine the night before and then load the crock pot with the marinade, spices, and vegetables. I cover and put it into my refrigerator to marinate overnight. The following morning, I simply pull it from the fridge and put it into the Crock Pot base and set it to low and go on about my day. I come home to a fully cooked meal ready to be served to my family.
OVEN VS CROCK POT
Most recipes calling for a slow cooker or Dutch oven start out the same way: brown the protein, chop the vegetables, add the braising liquid and cook. With the crock pot, you select either the high or low setting and let the machine do the work while a Dutch oven cooks either on the stovetop or in the oven. Since the two methods are so similar, they are easily interchangeable. When converting a recipe from a Dutch oven to a Crock Pot, always remember every Crock Pot is different with cooking temperatures, and some makes and models do run hotter than others, so cooking times do often vary.
One downfall to the Crock Pot is that many lack the ability to brown meat right inside the Crock Pot thus requiring a separate pan for browning of the meat. My Crock Pot is one that goes from stove top to Crock Pot, so I can brown right in the same pan. Aside from this, the difference between the Crock-Pot or Dutch oven braising method is just a matter of cooking time and a bit of attention during the cooking process.
Lastly, the Crock Pot doesn’t evaporate and reduce the cooking liquid in the same way a Dutch oven does so that the braising liquid will be thinner. For the Dutch oven, you will need to make sure you always have enough braising liquid. For the Crock-Pot, if you are using the final liquid as a sauce or gravy for your meal, you can choose to reduce the sauce on the stovetop, or you can thicken it with the addition of some corn starch. I usually just stir two heating tablespoons of cornstarch into 1/2 cup water and then just whisk the cornstarch into the sauce while the meat is resting and allow it to simmer away on high, thickening as I get the meat and vegetables ready for the dinner table.
Chouriço (pronounced: shure–REE-zo) is one of Portugal’s most famous sausages. Chouriço is a dry sausage similar to the more traditional Spanish chorizo. Chouriço and the milder Linguica sausage can be found in some local chain markets (available at my local Publix Supermarket near the smoked sausages) or on the internet. The brand I use is Gaspars, and I’ve used this both in New England and throughout the Southern United States in both South Carolina and Florida through Publix Supermarket. The most likely substitution flavor-wise for Portuguese Chouriço Sausage is the dry Spanish chorizo sausages. However, I can only find this version of dry Spanish sausage in our local Spanish specialty market. The most common type of chorizo found commercially available seems to be the wet Mexican chorizo sold in a tube which would not work as a substitution in this application. The other sausage I would recommend in its place from a texture and flavor standpoint would be Andouille Sausage for its spice profile. However, it will still slightly change the flavor profile of the delicious tomato based sauce but would be a viable substitution if the other suggestions were not available in your area.
Portuguese Pot Roast
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons parsley flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 (5 lb) boneless chuck roast
- 1 lb Portuguese chourico (or linguica), cut into 6-inch pieces
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 3 Spanish onions, peeled and cut in half or a bag of small boiling onions
- 3 cups cold water
- 4 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 pound medium carrots, cleaned and rough chopped into 2 inch pieces
To Thicken the Sauce
- 2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cold water
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the wine and water into tomato paste until smooth.
- Stir in the herbs and spices and set aside.
- Place beef and chourico pieces into the bottom of your crock pot. Pour the wine mixture on top.
- Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours.
- When you are ready to cook the pot roast, layer the potatoes on top, then the carrots and onions and finally the chourico (or sausage).
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. The meat will be tender and shred easily with two forks.
- If gravy is too thin, remove meat and vegetables, and place the gravy in a pan on top of the stove and cook uncovered over medium-high heat until reduced. Otherwise adding cornstarch will quickly thicken the gravy. Do this by dissolving 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water and then adding it into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil. If the sauce is still too thin; repeat. NOTE: If you add cornstarch directly to the hot gravy without first dissolving in some cold water, it will immediately clump.