Sunday, February 27, 2011

Perfect Pot Roast

Nothing tastes better on a winter's day that a great pot roast. I think I may have finally perfected my recipe. But I think I've perfected recipes all the darn time; then I perfect them some more. So let's go with the current edition of perfect pot roast.  Start with a Dutch oven or other heavy oven safe pot. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

  Heat a little olive oil in your Dutch oven on the stove.  Salt & pepper your boneless chuck roast. A 3 pounder should feed 4 to 6 people. I like to buy 3lb roasts and cut them in two. I salt them and freeze them, pulling out a 1 and 1/2 pound roast whenever I want to cook a pot roast for just the two of us. Make sure the meat is thawed before you start. Once the oil gets hot, brown the chuck roast on all sides in the pan.
Get it good and brown on all sides before removing to a plate.

While the meat is browning you can either finely chop  half a carrot, half a onion and half a stick of celery or do what I do and use frozen Mirepoix Mix like I do. About half a cup's worth
Put the chopped veggies in the pot and sprinkle a little sugar on top to aid carmelization

Add in 2 cloves of minced garlic. Hint: put a little water in with garlic and let it sit for a bit before adding to heat. That keeps it from burning. Nothing tastes worse that burnt acrid garlic.
Let the garlic cook for a few seconds. As soon as you smell it, it's done.  Now time to add the braising liquids.  I use this terrific trio:
One cup Chicken Broth, One cup beef or veal broth ( I love the veal broth) and a couple of good glugs of red wine. Add them to the pot along with some fresh thyme. (pull the leaves from about 3 sprigs or use about 1/2 tsp dried thyme) Add a little pepper, but not salt right now.
Bring the liquid to a simmer, making sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan to incorporate into the liquid and then put the beef back into the liquid. Now cover it with foil. Do NOT skip this step.

Put the lid on and put it in the oven.

Cook for 3 hours at 325 F. If you really want to, you could put the whole mixture into a slow cooker and let it go for much longer. But since the Dutch Oven is already dirty and you don't have to do anything but let it sit in the oven, I'd pick the oven. But if you prefer, put the meat and liquid in the slow cooker. Don't skip the foil step, though. You want to lock in as much liquid as possible. Sometimes I turn the meat every hour. Sometimes not.

I roast the vegetables separately. About an hour before the roast is finished, I put in the vegetables. I use potatoes and prepackaged baby carrots, cutting the potatoes to be roughly the same size as the carrots. I toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper.

I put parchment paper down on a cookie sheet and stick them in the oven to roast while the meat finished.

 Around the 2 and half/3 hour mark check to see if the meat is fall-apart tender. If it is, it's time to reduce the sauce. Move the beef to a plate or bowl and cover. Then turn up the heat, add a splosh of wine and reduce the liquid left in the pan by half.

If you want while it's reducing, you can make my secret sauce. (Shhhh don't tell a soul)  The magic ingredients are Ketchup, mustard and Worstershire Sauce

The intricate recipe is a couple of glugs of ketchup, a squire of mustard (enough to make it orangish red) and a few drops of Worstershire Sauce.

By the time the sauce reduces, the veggies should be roasted
 Time to salt the sauce to taste and serve. Put beautifully tender beef into a bowl

Add roasted vegetables

Now add the sauce
Now it's time to eat.

1 3lb boneless chuck roast
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup beef or veal broth
1/4 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic minced
2 stalks fresh thyme minced
1/4 mire poix mix or 1/2 carrot, small onion & celery stalk finely diced
Olive oil
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

One Tough Thyme

I decided to make a pot roast this afternoon. Usually I make it with the fresh thyme that grows in my little herb/weed patch, but it's buried under a foot or more of snow.
But the Thyme, Rosemary & Sage have survived so far this winter, so I thought I would dig down to see if it was still okay in there. I brushed off a foot of snow and hit a solid cap of ice, so I fetched a screw driver to break the ice.
I wasn't sure exactly where the Thyme was so I just started cracking the ice and then I smelled Thyme, so I knew I was in the right place. Under snow and ice there it was:

Fresh, beautiful and green and smelling like dinner

Into the stew pot with you....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coq Au Vin - Sounds fancy, but it ain't.

One of our favorite Sunday afternoon dishes is Coq Au Vin - French for Cock in Wine - because they used to stew tough old Cocks when they got too old for breeding in wine all day to tenderize them. Now fresh young chicken is plentiful, so it doesn't have to take all day. This is Tim's favorite dish to eat while watching NASCAR. It's a very simple and easy stew that you can put together in less than an hour. It uses simple ingredients

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, mushrooms, frozen pearl onions, thyme, bayleaf, tomato paste, butter, bacon, flour, garlic and red wine.

First, to the Vin part. Put about half a bottle of a fruity red (I like Gato Negro Malbec because it costs 5 bucks) into a sauce pan. To that add an equal amount of chicken broth. Add in a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Heat over medium heat and let the mixture reduce while your cook the chicken and prep the veggies

You'll need a good solid pan, I like my cast iron Dutch oven. Nothing non-stick, because there's some scraping involved.  This is enough for 2, but you can easily double it for 4 or just keep increasing until you hit how many people you need to feed.  Dice up about 3 slices of bacon and brown them in the pan
Once it's crisp, remove cooked bacon to a bowl and add a splash of olive oil to the rendered bacon fat. Salt and Pepper 6 to 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs and brown three or four at a time in the Dutch oven. While they brown, thaw about 20 pearl onions in the microwave for about a minute. You could also peel 20 fresh pearl onions. I don't do that anymore. Like I don't attempt to squeeze fresh Key Limes.

Once they are golden brown on both sides, remove to the bowl with the bacon. Then add about about 2 tablespoons of butter to the now empty pan and scrape up any browned chicken bits as the butter melts. Then add the pearl onions to the melted butter, bacon fat & oil

Then add about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms or however many fresh mushrooms you have on hand. If you don't like mushrooms, I suggest trying them soaked in wine and bacon. I really can't think of a good substitute.

Add two cloves of minced garlic & stir the mushrooms and onions together for a few minutes then add about a tablespoon or 2 of tomato paste. I love the stuff in the tube because you can use just as much as you need.
Now add in about 3 tablespoons of flour
Stir it all together and let it get a bit brown

Now stir in just a little chicken broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan as you go

The wine/broth mixture should be reduced by about 25 percent by now. Pluck out the herbs or run it through a strainer. Now add it to the pot and watch it turn to a pretty color.

Now put the chicken back in the pot along with the reserved bacon. Add a sprinkle of salt.

Put the lid on the pot and cook on medium heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing stick to the pan. Now you can either make some mashed potatoes or boil some noodles. This dish is delicious with both.  So after about 25 to 30 minutes, take the chicken out and put on a plate then cover with foil.  Bring the pan up to a boil, add about a tablespoon of butter and a good splash of wine. This is the time to salt & pepper the dish to taste. Let the sauce reduce a little and get glossy. This should take about 5 minutes.

While I was cooking, it started to snow.

Now, put the chicken back into the pan with the sauce. Put either noodles or mashed potatoes into the bowl you're serving it in.  Then put the delcious chicken and sauce on top. It's a great hot dish on a cold day.


6 to 8 Boneless Skinless chicken thighs
3 to 4 sliced bacon diced
20 pearl onions
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 bottle fruity red wine, plus additional 1/4 cup for later
half a stick of butter.
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Noodles or mashed potatoes.

Commando Crafting! Homies Shadow Box

While cooling my heels waiting for the Daytona 500 to start, I was hit by one of sudden urges to craft. I love crafty stuff, but I lack patience, so my projects need to be instantly gratifying. Looking around I saw a little bowl of Homies that's been lurking around the house for a fe years. Homies are teeny tiny representations of the residents of South Central Los Angeles, mainly Hispanic. They were available out of gum machines and for awhile we were feeding in the quarters to collect them all.

Insane Clow Posse Homie was espcially hard to find.
I had a shadow box ready, a Christmas gift from my friend & fellow lover of putting glitter on things, Cheryl

I glued a piece of foam board that I had lying around onto the back. Note: scissors are crappy tools for cutting foam board & I couldn't cut a straight line to save my life. Then I went to Wal-Mart for some clue that would join plastic and foamboard. Note: there is no glue that will join plastic and foamboard. I settled on a dollar tube of this generic Crazy Glue.

Then I purchased the thing that fixes everthing: Duct Tape. I figured I could put it over the foam board and add a service that I could glue the Homies too without melting the foam.

But no ordinary Duct Tape.  I got Duct Tape with flames!

Now my project is 500% more awesome!

Add the tape in strips to the foam board. A better woman would have lined up the pattern. If you see that better woman, compliment her on her dedication.  I just covered the thing in tape

Then I started gluing in the Homies with little rhyme or reason other than putting the ones with wide bases on the bottom.
Junk into art (or something like it)  The Homies have a home! So much better than living in a bowl!
Total crafting time (excluding Wal-Mart run): 30 minutes!