Cool weather inspires my more adventurous cooking. The paper had a recipe for “Perfect Pot Roast” and Food Lion had boneless chuck roast on sale for $2.59 a pound, so I decided to take another whack at it.
The recipe wasn’t “perfect” for me. It called for red wine, which I avoid because it gives me a runny nose and headaches, and fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme. No point in blowing $6 on herbs that would mostly rot in the fridge.
So I started with a well-marbled 2.5 lb. roast, 2 onions, 3 carrots, and Swanson unsalted beef stock. But there had to be some seasoning… What to do, what to do?
My last packet of Lipton Onion Soup! It even had a “Country-Style Pot Roast” recipe on the box, calling for carrots, potatoes, and water. Close enough.
The Perfect recipe needed a Dutch oven I don’t have, and the roast was too small for the crockpot, so I used Lipton’s stovetop cooking method, although boiling beef sounded like a recipe for disaster. But my previous attempts in the oven had only yielded gray slabs that could pass for paving stone, so what the hell?
First I browned the onions and carrots – the carrots “about a minute,” per Perfect.
I learned that carrots don’t brown. And after simmering in stock for several hours, they don’t get too soft, either.
Searing the roast in olive oil went without a hitch, but I skipped deglazing the pan for “tasty bits” because it was nonstick and there were none.
Next, I heated the stock to a boil and threw in the dry onion soup — and then noticed the box said, “Best if used by June 12, 2007.” Hmmm… too late now.
Back in went the onions, carrots, and meat to simmer for 2.5 hours.
Dinner, or something I'll use to repair my front walk?
The Lipton recipe said to add the carrots and chunks of potato during the last 30 minutes, but I’m glad I didn’t. The carrots would have been like rocks. Instead, I roasted the potatoes doused in olive oil and Emeril’s Essence separately.
As the house filled with cooking smells, I felt a little Ruth Reichl coming on…
Carrot-colored leaves fall as beef and iridescent onions laze in a rich Jacuzzi of juices, making the senses swim in their succulence.
After I fished everything out of the stock, my crowning achievement was a batch of lumpless gravy, which I made with cornstarch instead of the flour Lipton recommended.
This pot roast wasn’t falling apart but, for the first time, it WAS moist and tender, without that dry, chewy finish, even upon reheating the next day.
Success at last!
Next time, I'll skip the carrots.