Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Sister's Friend's Pot Roast Reworked

I can't take all the credit for my awesome pot roast, the recipe was taught to me years ago by a friend of a friend. I remember walking into her house for the first time and having my senses overwhelmed by the buttery smell coming from her kitchen. I never knew beef could smell like that. From the first bite I took I was hooked and never looked back. Over the years I tinkered and tweaked the recipe until it stands as written here today. Best. Pot roast. Ever.

The secret to perfect pot roast is time. Nothing more, nothing less. The secret to lustful pot roast is using beef stock instead of water.

5 or 6 pound blade chuck roast
3-4 thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 C beef stock or water
1 head of garlic, peeled, cloves left whole
2 carrots per person, peeled and cut into chunks
2 potatoes per person, peeled and quartered
1 purple turnip per person, peeled and halved
as many extra onions as you would like, peeled and halved or quartered
You can really use any root vegetables you like and as much or as little as you would like.
2 +/- C beef stock
you may need additional water
1 bag of frozen peas-thawed**
1 box of crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
flour or other thickening agent

Preheat your oven to 400*

Put your roast and the onions in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until well browned about 1 -1 1/2 hours.

Take the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 350*. Add enough stock or water to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the garlic cloves all over the pan. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Check the roast at the hour mark as you may need to add more stock/water, you don't want the pan to dry out.

Remove pan from the oven, add your veggies (except peas), add enough stock to cover the veggies, replace the cover and cook another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven, add peas, recover and cook another 15 minutes.

When the cooking time is done I put all the veggies on a serving platter right along with the meat and cover with foil and proceed to make mushroom gravy using the pan drippings and extra beef stock (as needed) along with a little vermouth or red wine if I've got it kicking around.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bread Anyone Can Make

There is something about a loaf of bread straight from the oven. Maybe it's the way it makes the whole house smell? Maybe it's the taste? Whatever it is, homemade bread makes me feel like everything is just a little better, even if the feeling only lasts a few hours. I love to make homemade bread. It looks awesome! It smells awesome! It tastes awesome! The only thing that could make it better? The fact that it takes less than 5 minutes of actual time to make! This beautiful loaf came out of my kitchen without a bread machine or the use of my Kitchen Aid. This is a loaf that requires patience though, you need to mix the dough 12-18 hours BEFORE you bake it.

In your favorite large bowl mix together the following ingredients with a wooden spoon:

3 C King Arthur all purpose flour (trust me on this one)
¼ t instant yeast
1¼ t salt
1 1/2 C + 2 T warm water

Cover it with plastic wrap, place it in a draft-free place where it won't be disturbed or in the way. Now here is the important part... Walk away. That's it, put down the spoon and go about your business. Move along now, nothing to see you looky lous! Go away and don't touch it for a minimum of 12 hours.

If your yeast was good and you left the dough alone long enough this is what it should look like. It will be wet and full of bubbles, don't panic! Wet dough freaks me out, it doesn't hold it's shape and the first time I made this I worried that it would not bake into anything edible. There is no mistaking that this is a super wet dough, at the twelve hour mark you can see the wetness (click on photo for larger image) but I finally figured out that in order for the recipe to work properly, the dough needs to be wet. It's this waterlogged like dough that creates the steam bath in the covered pot while it bakes. Speaking of pots...

This is what I bake this particular bread in but you can do it in any oven safe covered vessel. You put the pot in the oven while it's preheating and then open it up, plop the dough in, re-cover and let it do its thing. Don't worry, I'm going to give complete directions in a minute but I wanted to show you guys that you don't need a fancy Le Creuset pot to bake this bread. Getting back to the recipe...

At the 12-18 hour mark it's time to form the dough into a ball. I use a 2 tea towel method. I put one tea towel on a cookie sheet and liberally sprinkle it with flour. I fold the dough over on itself several times, form it into a ball and place it seam side down on the flour. I sprinkle the top of the dough ball with cornmeal and place the second towl on top. I leave the dough to rest for about 2 hours total. At the hour and a half mark of rising, I put my covered pot in the oven and turn it on to 450* abd leave it alone for a half hour. To put the dough in the pot I slide one hand under towel and, although awkward the first few times, I flip the dough into pot, floured side up. You can shake the pan a little if the dough didn't land in the center but it will straighten out as it bakes all on its own. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is browned. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before you cut into it or you will have a mess.