My mom, Angel, has always been the best cook in the neighborhood and everybody knew it. In the 1970s and '80s, when most of my friends were eating fast food and processed junk, all the kids wanted to come to my house for dinner. (We weren't going to go to the neighbors' houses to eat TV dinners.) This is one of the meals Mom would fix when I was growing up because it was easy, delicious and inexpensive, and it fed a crowd. This was my introduction to braising, the first braised dish I ever made-and I didn't even know we were braising. Mom called it pot roast and we had it weekly. And in true Italian pot roast fashion, we'd eat it over rigatoni. I now sometimes serve it over soft polenta with mascarpone, another excellent option. It showed me how much I loved the deep complex flavors of braises generally, which I prefer to eat over just about any other kind of dish. One of the pleasures of this meal is the big chunks of carrots and celery root that cook in that delicious liquid for four hours; they take on all the flavors of the braising liquid. They don't taste like carrots and celery root anymore; they taste like a steak, and that's why they're so good. A couple of critical steps in this recipe are getting a good sear on the meat and caramelizing the vegetables in the pot before deglazing. Beyond that, the red sauce is critical. And I also think it's important that a third of the meat be above the liquid-one of the factors that for me defines braising-so pot size is important; it shouldn't be so small that the meat is submerged or so big that the meat is sitting in just an inch of liquid.
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