Returning home from a week’s vacation is always a bit disconcerting. To begin with, there are the myriad elements of travel and all its interesting, but occasionally unsettling features…
Let’s talk those trips where you spend much time out of every day searching for an available bathroom in a country where the language is a mystery. Think Paris.
Or others when the airline switches you to a middle seat between a chatty, terrified-of-flying man and a mom with a fussy baby.
If you’re a seasoned traveler, these occurrences are taken in stride and soon forgotten, but what’s always easy to remember is the electric-type shock of coming back to a place where no one makes coffee every morning or offers a brand new dinner menu every night. (Let’s admit I live for that stuff.)
One fine day, an empty, closed up and stale house greets each and every traveler, no matter how far she’s flown or how long she’s been away. There’s nothing worth eating in the fridge, work sadly beckons, dirty clothes that were in the hamper are still there, and the yard — despite all attempts — has continued growing whilst she tasted 20 wines a day or hiked nearly all of Glacier National Park.
Let’s not forget the groan heard round the world when standing on the scale after a cruise.
There’s also the intake and exhale of air on first climbing back into your own bed or seeing your pooches again after what is beginning to seem like a long week away. Fall arrived while we were gone!
What better way to welcome yourself home than to cook up something ultra-comforting that you barely need to think about while the washer whirs, you sort through the week’s mail, and run to the grocery, its entrance now surrounded by pumpkins?
As the taxi dropped us off in the driveway late Sunday night, I walked straight to the freezer in the garage, pulled out a boneless chuck roast, and tossed it in the mudroom sink for an overnight thaw. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d do with it, but if God was good there were at least a few potatoes, onions, and maybe even some carrots hanging around. I could grab a few other things during that first shopping to restock the house.
I’m perfectly happy with a slow cooker roast and often cook one frozen, but find that braising the meal in a Dutch oven truly creates a better-tasting piece of beef and is easier if you want gravy, too. It also fine works mid-afternoon when you didn’t get around to starting that meal at 8 am. I’m additionally assured that two days later, as the bad weather moves in, I’ll have the leftover ingredients to make a big pot of Vegetable-Beef Soup. See directions below.
Pot roast and gravy is an easy meal, but it’s easy to under season it, too. Make sure you use plenty of salt and pepper while cooking the meat, brown it very well all over, and taste and adjust the seasonings of the gravy at the end when you try this:
horseradish pot roast and vegetables with gravy
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 pounds boneless chuck roast-patted dry with paper towels
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided—or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
- ¼ cup prepared horseradish
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 medium yellow Spanish onions, quartered, divided
- 4 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces, divided
- 1 large parsnip, trimmed, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
- 1 large turnip, trimmed, peeled, diced
- 12 Brussels sprouts, trimmed (slice in half if large)
- 1 large sprig each: fresh rosemary and thyme
- 2 tablespoons Wondra flour, all purpose, unbleached flour will work, too—for gravy
- ½ cup water—for gravy
- Heat oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high flame until very warm. Meanwhile, sprinkle the roast on both sides with half of the salt and half of the pepper and pat the seasonings in with your fingers. Add roast to the hot pot and let brown well for about 5 minutes without moving. Turn the meat over and spread with horseradish. Let brown well again, then turn to brown on the sides, as well. Add garlic to bottom of pan; let cook for a minute or so.
- Pour in the water and wine, add the bay leaves, bring to a boil, and reduce to a low simmer. Add 1 of the onions and one of cut carrots to the pot. Cover and cook for an hour or so. Tip in the rest of the vegetables, sprinkle them with the other half of the salt and pepper and stir gently, leaving some of the vegetables on top of the roast. Lay the rosemary and thyme on top. Let cook another half hour or more, as needed, checking a time or two to make sure there’s plenty of liquid simmering gently. The dish is done when the roast is at 180 degrees F (+) and all of the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the roast and vegetables to a serving platter and cover, leaving the broth in the pot.
- Make the gravy: Bring the broth to a boil. Whisk the flour into the water and whisk the slurry into the bubbling liquids. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook a few minutes more, stirring, until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- To serve: Pour half of the gravy over the meat and serve the rest in a gravy boat or small pitcher at the table. Slice the meat and serve hot.
- Use the leftovers to make a pot of Beef-Vegetable Soup. Directions in blog post.
Storage: Cooked roast beef lasts 2-3 days in the refrigerator if it’s been cooled and stored quickly.
USING UP LEFTOVERS TO MAKE BEEF-VEGETABLE SOUP:
Sauté an onion, two chopped carrots, 2 chopped stalks celery, and a minced clove of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium flame. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of dried thyme, a bay leaf, and 1/2 cup fresh minced parsley. Cook until the vegetables are starting to soften.
Stir in 1-2 cups of chopped, well-trimmed leftover pot roast, all of the sauce or gravy, a 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, two quarts of low sodium beef or chicken broth, 2 or more cups of water, and a few drops of hot sauce. Bring to a boil. Add two medium peeled and chopped potatoes, 1 cup of chopped cabbage, and two cups frozen mixed vegetables or fresh vegetables such as trimmed and chopped green beans, English peas, zucchini, etc. Lower heat to a steady, but gentle boil, cooking until everything is tender. Stir regularly and add any leftover, cooked, and chopped vegetables from the slow cooker for the last 5 or 10 minutes to heat through. Pour in more water or broth if the everything isn’t floating very freely in the liquid.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, including hot sauce. Serve hot with crusty bread for dunking.
COOK’S NOTE: If you have a lot of vegetables left from cooking the roast, you can cut back on the amount added to the soup.
Options: Add a 1/2 cup (or more) of a very small pasta — such as tubetti or elbow macaroni– during the last 15 minutes of cooking or, if you’ve time, 1/2 cup barley, which takes 45 minutes. If you’d like to use spinach, add it during the last five minutes.
STORAGE: If you have made soup the day after cooking the beef and vegetables, you can cool the soup, put it into containers with tight lids, and store in the refrigerator 2-3 days or in the freezer for 4-6 months. Label and date your soup! It freezes better without potatoes or pasta, if you can manage it. If not, it’ll still be a good dinner you didn’t have to cook that night.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY…
Our cruise began in Vancouver, B.C. and ran down the Pacific Coast to include stops in Astoria, OR, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, CA, and ended in San Diego. In between all of that, we had two glorious days at sea. Good weather was had by all each and every day.
Today, I’m back to all of my normal activities, but am also digging the last of the vegetables and moving my pots of herbs indoors because…
…the times, they are a-changing,