By this time of the year, pot roast (boneless beef chuck roast, in this case) has lost the patina or excitement it so raptly held last fall. It’s been cold awhile and we’ve been eating “comfort food” for months. While the price hasn’t dropped much over all, there was a twofer sale at our local grocery and of course I still stocked up. The list for meat in the big garage freezer boasts way too many possibilities, but 4 pot roasts was still scratched onto its bottom. What to do with the first one for a special weekend meal? (Stay tuned about what fate awaits the rest of them.)
You may not share my approach to living. I’m most happy and feel terribly rich when there’s a big pot of something luscious bubbling on the stove–especially on a snowy day.
Enough to feed 12 is about right. And maybe there’s a bottle of wine airing on the table with glasses perched just within reach. A fresh baguette wafting its bouquet throughout the kitchen. Salted butter, of course. Paris Café music on the Bose, as we’re just back from France:
Despite devoting the lion’s share of my time to cooking, even I sometimes just have to throw something in the slow cooker, pray for success, and run. A couple of fairly recent keepers in that category are:
Give me a cold day. Any cold day. Let me have time and peace to stir together something that incubates in my oven gently easing its teasing, come-hither aromas throughout the house and drawing near all who enter. Add an entrancing, captivating book waiting for me during that 3-hour parole and I am a happy girl. Ok, include a balanced, but lofty bottle of wine and the deal is sealed.
For Election Day 2016, I’m spending my time making my streamlined Beef Burgundy. It’ll take my mind off what’s going on, keep me from checking my phone or computer too often, and give Dave, the dogs, and me something great to smell.
Even my streamlined Beef Burgundy takes a good bit of time (I started yesterday) and should be shared. Who needs friends more than on election night? We invited a couple of really close ones for the meal and for the duration–whichever comes first. Continue reading
If you wanted a slow cooker pot roast recipe, I doubt you’d look here. (I don’t do a lot of slow cooker.) Maybe you wouldn’t look anywhere; you’d just put your meat and vegetables together into the pot with your wine, broth, or herbs and turn it on. That’s what I do on the occasions I make this meal. I decided to blog it, though, because I had such good luck getting a big frozen piece of meat cooked and on the table quickly using a slow cooker. No more excuses if you’ve forgotten to unthaw your meat and the morning has disappeared; you can still make a great no-watch meal in a short afternoon. The rest of the time is yours to take a bath, watch the dogs sleep, read the paper, garden, call your daughter, or binge-watch Downton. So put this one in your back pocket for when you need it…
(Below: Right after the Super Bowl. All worn out.
FROZEN POT ROAST SLOW COOKER DINNER with horseradish, carrots, and onions IN 4.5 HOURS
I cooked Monday for Inter-Faith Hospitality network (IHN) families; it’s something I’ve done for years at more than one church. It’s a way of living life that makes a lot of sense to me; I like to cook and there are people who need dinner. Here in Colorado Springs at First Congregational Church, we bring already cooked or nearly finished complete meals to a church kitchen where families without physical homes gather, eat dinner with us, and then spend the night. A group of churches and temples work together and the homeless people spend a week at one place and then move to another while awaiting jobs and/or permanent housing. It gives all of the congregations a chance to participate without burdening any one financially or otherwise with the full-time housing of the ever-changing group.
Typically, but not always, a dinner coordinator makes contact a couple of months ahead and asks what I’d like to make; for other churches there’s a set menu for each week. The families aren’t the same, so it doesn’t matter if there’s meat loaf on Monday and chicken with rice on Tuesdays, etc. every time. That gives the dinner coordinator a repeating group of tasks that the volunteers become used to. For instance, if I’m a shopping volunteer, I might know that every two months I’ll make a run to Costco for fresh milk, ground beef, chicken pieces, broccoli, spinach, etc. Once a year, I might need to buy paper napkins and cocoa mix. If I’m a cooking volunteer and I’m scheduled for Wednesday, I know I’ll be making baked potatoes with toppings. I find I like both options, though the latter gives me time to spend with other volunteers cooking in the kitchen rather than fixing food on my own at home.
If by chance you have both, and even if you’re a cat person, you should make a Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad. For 2. Or double it for 4. Continue reading
Over the holidays, and since, we’ve been making big pots of soup when we weren’t finishing off the leftovers. Colds, strep throat, and the need for lighter fare after all the heavy meals were the instigators, but the weather contributed… Today, the sun came out to melt the snow–
and it was time for something else: real cooking in the oven maybe? Two big pot roasts called my name at the store the other day, and one of them simply jumped into the Dutch oven cut up with a big bunch of cooked green chiles and onions. Sounded incredibly homey–a beef and green chile braise kept coming to mind (rather than chili, per se)–but I also decided to whip up a pot of cheddar mashed potatoes to keep it company. A side of barely tender green beans, stirred up with just the teensiest bit of butter rounded out the meal.
Dave’s on the road (he’ll have his share Friday night), but Sean and I each had a lovely bowl of this goodness and, when we did, we happened to look out the big, low window in the sun room that’s becoming my dining room only to meet eyes with a great big, muscular bobcat (lynx.) Living in Colorado has its beautiful moments. And other things. The dogs said zip. Scaredy cats. Which was good; they were staying inside. Continue reading
In St. Paul, there’s a high below 1 degree Fahrenheit today. It was -14 degrees when I got up and pressed the button for coffee this morning. I stayed home, cried throughout the inauguration, and did what any self-respecting, frozen food blogger would do. I made beef burgundy…or boeuf bourguignon… If you can spell it, you can make it.
The inauguration poet, Richard Blanco’s poem, “One Today” was one of the highlights for me. The other was James Taylor singing “America the Beautiful,” of course. The speech was so, so fine.
ANYWAY….After all the stir! about Julie and Julia for all that time….and all the hype about boeuf bourguignon, I think we may have come down to earth. I no longer hear neighbors rolling the name of the dish around their hungry tongues and the Meryl Streep or Amy Adams talk is long past the appetizing roles of Julia and Julie. For the record, I’d love a whole movie about Julia starring Meryl Streep. Sadly director Nora Ephron last year crossed the river and is now surely writing all kinds of wonderful things God doesn’t require her to any longer sell.
Beef burgundy, after all, is just beef cooked in burgundy–which is simply–and not so simply– a lovely French wine made in the Burgundy area of France from Pinot Noir grapes. (We make incredible burgundy here in the states–visit Oregon and taste their perfect Pinot Noirs. See below for a brief note about that.) I won’t tell if you cook the beef in some other red wine that you just happen to have or in beef stock if that’s your preference. Of course, then it wouldn’t be beef burgundy. It would be beef cooked in red wine or beef stew.
And the feeling that it’s not beef burgundy if it’s not made according to Julia’s recipe is just not right. HELLO! Is beef stew not beef stew if we don’t make it exactly like our mother did or the same as some cookbook recipe? There are, I’d guess, many French cooks who cook up beef and Burgundy with a few other additions. (Though the French are sticklers for form. See below for a French blogger’s take/photos on the dish.) The typical beef burgundy recipe is, like many French dishes, short on vegetables, and long on directions. While mine still takes 3 hours in the oven, I’ve made a few short-cuts, and added a few more vegetables for health and balance. It’s worth doing a day (or night) ahead and just heating up if you’d like to serve it for company. You then can focus on dessert, the table, work, or giving the house a lick and a promise.
I love that we make most dishes with what’s available or what we need to cook or eat. (I buy several big chuck roasts when they’re on sale at Whole Foods. Then I’m ready for really cold-day meals. My big freezer is, however, in the garage; I have to brave the below zero temps to bring in the meat!) We are not bound to anything written down on earth or on the internet or on Grandma Sadie’s well-worn and stained recipe cards. Use your heart and use your God-given imagination. Turn on the stove, dream, and cook. And while you’re at it, enjoy feeding someone; they’ll enjoy eating this, I promise.
(As I set the table tonight, I glanced through the weekend edition of WSJ, which — funny/odd–had an article on cooking beef burgundy in a pressure cooker! Worth pursuing.)
streamlined beef burgundy with vegetables
-serves 6-8 –can be made a day ahead and reheated
- In a 6-8-quart Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, heat 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter over medium flame. Add 2 cups thawed frozen pearl onions and 8 ounces of cut-in-half button mushrooms. Sprinkle with a generous pinch each of black pepper and dried thyme. Let brown, then stir, and let cook a bit more until tender. Remove from pot, cool, and refrigerate until later. To the pot, add 3 chopped pieces of bacon and let cook until nearly done. Remove from pot, cool, and refrigerate until later along with the onions and mushrooms. Leave bacon fat in pan. In 3 batches, brown very well 3 pounds of beef chuck roast, cut into 1-2 inch pieces, dried with towels, floured, salted and peppered. (If the pan becomes too dry, add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil. All the brown in the bottom of the pan will come up later.) When last batch is nearly browned, add 2 finely chopped yellow onions, 2 finely chopped stalks of celery, and 3 chopped cloves of garlic. Let cook a couple of minutes, stirring, and pour in 1/4 cup brandy (or red wine) and bring to a boil. Stir to bring up bits at bottom if the onions didn’t do the job. Let cook 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the beef you browned earlier back into the pot and stir.
- To pot, add 3 peeled carrots cut into 1–2 inch pieces, 2 each peeled and sliced parsnips and turnips (small), and 1 cored and sliced fennel bulb. Stir in 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 Turkish bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Tie up a half-bunch of parsley and lay it on top.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Taste and, if necessary (and I think it is), sprinkle vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and, if desired (I desire), a pinch of crushed red pepper. Pour a 750ml bottle of Burgundy (Pinot Noir) or red Rhone wine and 2 cups beef or chicken stock over all. Cover and place in oven.
- Cook until beef is tender, 2 1/2 – 3 hours. When beef is nearly done, add the reserved pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon, return to oven until quite hot–perhaps 15 minutes. (If you briefly heat the onion mixture before adding it to the stew, you’ll save time.)
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If too thin, thicken stove top with the addition of a tablespoon or two of flour whisked into 1/4 cup water or wine. Stir in and bring to a boil, cooking until thickened up a bit. ** If stew is too thick, add 1-2 cups of chicken or beef stock (not wine) or water and let heat again stovetop. Taste and re-season if necessary. I like the stew to be loose enough for dunking bread (as I note) or for mashing up a root vegetable in. In other words, you need the gravy.
- Serve hot garnished with a little chopped fresh parsley or, if not needed until tomorrow, cool totally, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Next day, re-heat over low flame slowly, covered, stirring often for a half hour or so. It should come to a boil at least briefly before serving.
- I like it best with big chunks of baguette for dunking, though the usual suspects are new potatoes or, according to my French teacher, egg noodles.
- Typically a little green salad with vinaigrette is served here in the states with the beef. I also like it with some quickly steamed green beans and a drizzle of mustard-vinaigrette as a salad. It’s nice to have something with a bit of crunch for contrast. Serve with Pinot Noir ^^ or French Burgundy.
**You can also use equal amounts of butter and flour, mashed together (buerre manie)–perhaps a tablespoon or two each.
A PHOTO STORY:
|I had no French brandy or cognac; I do keep Asbach Uralt in the house.|
|I used an inexpensive A-Z Pinot (2008) for cooking.|
|I freeze tomato paste in small bags and just take out what I need.|
THE WINE–skip this if you’ve got the wine figured…
Quality Burgundy (French) is pretty pricey, though there are some at lower price points worth drinking. Check at the wine shop if you’re set on a European wine.
^^There are many great Oregon Pinots--Sineann, Ken Wright, Cristom, Bethel Heights, WillaKenzie, Soter, Privé, Domaine Serene, and more… Read about Oregon Pinots here, though F&W gives a different list of favorite wineries. These are, mostly, special occasion wines ($40 and up), but a couple of vineyards are producing lower-priced or entry level Oregon Pinots (Ken Wright –$30–and Tony Soter–$20– that I know of).
Beef Burgundy is worth a special occasion wine like an Oregon Pinot Noir. It’s a fine meal you don’t make too often. But….if you really can’t splurge for the night… A much lower-priced Pinot that’s not a shame to drink might be A-Z or even Angeline. Inexpensive (or cheap) Pinot Noirs aren’t worth drinking. (I’d rather drink coke and be sober is the tag line.) You might want to buy a French Rhone red wine instead, which is a blend often dominated by the Syrah grape, inexpensive, a decent value, and consistently tasty. Ask someone at the wine shop which Rhone they like. Buy three bottles if you can; one to cook with, one to drink, and one for leftovers. You could try different producers and see which you like best.
OTHER INFO YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
A French food blogger’s boeuf-bourguignon with lots of photographs.
Want to watch Julia’s first French Chef show on how to make Boeuf Bourguignon? It’s very entertaining and there’s tons to learn! See her taste the stew out of the cooking spoon… Note her washing machine and dryer in the kitchen and hear her say SEWTAY.
Sing a new song,