Sunday, January 13, 2008


wonderful little treats come in some of the most unexpected ways. just little moments of tasty-ness that bring a smile to your face -- tasty in palate and general heartfelt yummyness, a warm feeling in your heart and a time to share with someone you love. the nights brandon and i spend together while nicholas is out with his big brother are always interesting and life affirming. my youngest guy has a lot of, well, inner turmoil that is finally coming out, not always in the best ways, but for the best in the long run. these two guys have not had the easiest of times and they've held it close to the vest for awhile, but now, as they reach puberty, they're really letting go, letting out. not to get too deep, just to give perspective. one on one time is not the easiest to grab with two guys so close together in age. i doubt nicholas even remembers what it was like to have me all to himself -- he was only 13 and a bit months old (okay, 1 year +, for all you george carlin die hards) when brandon was born, had just learned how to walk at age 13 months (never even crawled, just went from being a slug to cruising the furniture to walking -- unbelievable kid) and, boom, there was his brother. both of them have been sharing with me thoughts and emotions i always intuited but never heard from them and we're better for it -- even when i don't think we are at the time. ultimately, we are. any time my sons are able to set their hearts free so they can grow past it, i'm cool.

well, on to what i was mentioning about the treats that come in unique ways. friday night and nicholas went out with his big bro. i defrosted a chuck roast from my 1/8 of moo and made pot roast. brandon is not a pot roast fan or, at least, like nicholas and chicken breasts, he thinks so until he eats it. so i didn't tell him we were having POT roast. i told him we were having ROAST. yep, i'm not above manipulation when i just don't have time to deal with it. call me a weak mom or a wuss. i'm cool with that. all i'm looking for is calm at times when there is chaos. you bet.

in order to create this lovely pot roast and keep to my own personal pirate code, i looked in a trusty, dusty cookbook, THE COMPLETE MEAT COOKBOOK by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. yeah, i know, i cooked out of this before not too long ago and i'm sorry if i'm breaking my own rule, but with so much beef in my house, cooking from a cookbook called THE COMPLETE MEAT COOKBOOK is not so out of the question. but i will try to do better. i promise.

the recipe is called Lisa's Lazy Pot Roast and i had me quite the large chunk o' chuck roast to cook up that night. there's something quite homey about pot roast, if done the right way. i found, as a child, that while i liked the meat, i never liked the veggies that went along with it. they were cooked into oblivion. i realized that i like vegetables that keep their bite, that aren't cooked into mush (even mashed potatoes with a little chunkyness make me hap, hap, happier than totally smooth -- although a good, well made puree of potato never hurt anybody. oh, no). and, so, when i first saw Lisa's Lazy Pot Roast, i smiled...
you'll see why. oh, this is not the first time i have made this particular dish. no, no. however, it is the first time i actually really THOUGHT about it. don't forget about the flavor step, that faboo absolute yum flavor step The Complete Meat Cookbook provides. what pals.

herb and paprika rub for beef
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs osher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast OR a beef brisket, trimmed of most fat
2 tbs veggie oil
1/2 cup water or beef or chicken stock, or more if needed
5 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 large onions)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

what to do:
1. flavor step (YAY!):
combine the herbs, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. rub the meat thoroughly with the mixture. you can cook the roast immediately, but it will taste better if it sits for an hour or two at room temp or overnight in a zipper-lock bag or, well wrapped, in the fridge.
2. preheat the oven to 350ºF. in a large, heavy casserole or a dutch oven, heat the veggie oil over medium-high heat. brown the meat on all sides, about 7 minutes. remove and set aside. pour off any fat from the pan and deglaze the pan with the water or stock, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. put the roast back in the pan, cover it with the sliced onions and garlic, cover, and bake for 1 hour.
3. remove the cover, turn the roast over so that it is on top of the onions, and continue to cook, uncovered, for another hour, adding more liquid if needed. stir the onions around after about 30 minutes so they can brown more evenly.
4. replace the cover and continue to cook for 1 hour more or until the meat is fork-tender; brisket will take a little longer than chuck. remove the meat from the pot and let it rest, covered loosely with foil, while you prepare the sauce. (at this point, you may refrigerate the pot roast for later reheating. refrigerate the cooking liquid separately. to serve later, remove any congealed fat from the cooking liquid and strain it before using it to reheat the meat gently.)
5. to serve, strain and defat the sauce. taste for salt and pepper. cut the meat into thick slices or separate it into chunks. spoon some sauce and onions over each serving.

what we did:
we used dried rosemary and chuck roast. the marinade time was for 1 1/2 hours and we used 2 onions instead of three (because we only had two onions). we didn't use stock, but water, which i usually don't do when stock is an option in order to impart more flavor, but let's see how that turned out. everything else the recipe said to do we did. so was i able to convince brandon that pot roast, once again, is quite yum?

yes. using the water instead of the stock worked out great. this is EXCEEDINGLY flavorful, in every possible way. if you've ever experienced pot roast that is either overdone, underdone, flavorless or covered in mushy, icky veggies, this is the one that will change your mind forever. like the horseradish encrusted pot roast we made a bit ago, this is a winner. brandon was in love with it and when i reheated it a few days later for leftovers while hanging out with nicholas, nicholas went nuts for it. this was terrific and i recommend it highly.

this experience is really wonderful. while i haven't been keeping up with the blog as much as i would like (and i am SOOOO sorry for that -- i promise to work harder. really, really, really), the cooking every night has been as great as it has been challenging. but what it's brought out for us more than the challenge or the great feeling is this sense of doing for ourselves in a way that allows us to control our food so we are aware of the quality of the ingredients, know what's really going in to what we are eating. i like that. i like knowing that the things i am feeding are from a place we can trust and are made with thought and care. and ease, quite often.

i know, i'm doing my "isn't cooking wonderful?" thing again, which you may not agree with and, um, really hate me for doing all the time. i'm cool with that. honest. but i do love it, obviously, and i believe, if you give me a chance, you'll come to love it, too. because, everybody deserves to cook for themselves and experience an ease in cooking should, heaven forbid, you find yourself low on funds and going out to eat is way too much to deal with all the time. even really simple stuff, which i hope you discover in this blog, will make your life a lot easier.

okay, i'm off my soapbox now.
thanks for playing :o)

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