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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pot Roast from the Joy of Cooking

A friend of mine recently had a baby - the sweetest little baby girl you have ever seen. She is only two weeks old and she is smiling! Adorable. But we all know that such adorableness comes with some other not-so adorable qualities that make a new mother's life difficult for the first few weeks after the baby's birth. To help ease my friend's household burdens a smidge so that she could have more time to enjoy her new little bundle, I decided to bring her a meal. Because I have been craving pot roast, have been on a quest to find the ultimate recipe for it, and wanted to bring my friend a dish that was a meal in a pot - you guessed it - I made pot roast.

Honestly, it was a little brave of me to cook a pot roast with the intention of feeding it to someone else. Pot roast is one of those meals that always disappoints when I cook it at home. The gravy is runny and the meal is bland. My default way to cook pot roast is to throw everything in a slow cooker, wait six hours, then eat. Since this hasn't been garnering the results I want, I was ready to try a different method. Following the instructions from The Joy of Cooking, I first seared the meat in hot oil in a large skillet, then added veggies and broth and cooked everything over an extremely slow flame for several hours. When everything was cooked, the result was not all that different from those I had achieved prviously, and I was thinking I would have to have a pizza delivered to my friend's.

But wait - what is this? A step AFTER everything is cooked? Yes! Rather than enjoy your now cooked but bland meat and veggies in broth, Ms. Cunningham instructs you to remove the solids from the pan and add 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp flour for every cup of liquid. This thickens the broth into a wonderful gravy and adds that depth of flavor that only butter can bring to a dish. People, let me tell you, this is what I have been missing in my pot roast cooking life. Try this recipe, you will be glad you did.

Beef Pot Roast (Basic Recipe)from the Joy of Cooking

1 beef chuck or rump roast (3-5 pounds), neatly tied if boneless
Season with: salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 2-3 tbsps vegetable oil, rendered beef fat, or lard in a heavy Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat.
Add the roast and brown on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. Maintain the heat so that the meat sizzles but does not burn. Remove the meat to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tbsps. of fat from the pan and heat over medium high heat. Add:

2 cups finely chopped ojnions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, just until they begin to color, about 5 minutes. Add:

1 cup beef or chicken stock, dry red wine, or water

Bring to a boil and add:

1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsps fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Return the roast to the pan and cover. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook the roast slowly so that the liquid just barely simmers. Turn th roast every 30 minutes or so. Make sure there is always some liquid in the pot and add more as needed. When the meat is tender, (Flat roasts will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours, round or oblong roasts may take as long as 4 hours), remove the roast to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim off any fat from the surface of the liquid. Strain the liquid. To thicken the sauce slightly, bring the liquid to a boil. For each cup liquid, stir together and whisk in:

1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1tbsp butter, softened

Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Note: I did not tie my boneless cut. Also, I roughly chopped the vegetables, did not add a bay leaf, and did not strain my liquid after cooking. My flat, 2 pound roast took 3 hours to cook.

Still Thinking about the Green Bathroom

If I am going to keep the green fixtures, I need to find a new tank cover for the toilet and a green (or black) toilet seat that matches the color of the toilet. The tank cover is cracked, and I don't like the way the current white toilet seat looks. (I wouldn't keep the old seat, but it allows me to see what a white seat looks like against the green.) On a related note, I think I've said/written the word "toilet" more in the past several days than I have in my life. Toilet. It's a funny word.

Last night I found a great site - retro renovation - that is dedicated to providing information about how to renovate your home while staying true to its retro origin. The site is full of great tips and resources and is truly inspiring. After spending some time clicking around on the site, I didn't feel so crazy for liking my green bathroom. (By the way, did I tell you that when the plumber came to give me a quote on installing a shower he said "You're gutting this, right?", as if it was a foregone conclusion?) The best part is that through retro renovation, I found two other sites - one which sells toilet seats in every color of the rainbow, and one that specializes in vintage toilet parts. The downside is that, depending on the exact shade of green of my fixtures (Mint? Ming?) the cover I need can cost between $300 and $900. I can buy a brand new toilet for that!

I'll leave you with a picture of my toilet: You can see the white toilet seat in this shot. It's also interesting to note the color of the bowl. The previous owners claimed to have the place cleaned on a regular basis. I think they need to ask for their money back from the maid service.