Pot Hooks the Unfoodie

January 23, 2012

By Karen

No, this is not about what you’re probably thinking…

This weekend was bitter, bleak and wet, and Food Lion had chuck on sale, so I decided to try another pot roast.

This time, instead of ancient bouillon, I had beef stock, drinkable red wine, and fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary on hand (and I kept carrots and onions in the brew). The result was truly “fork-tender,” falling apart as I lifted it out of the pot.

But it was the POT that really got me excited. If you’ll remember, I cooked my first roast in a non-stick pot that didn’t need deglazing, so I had picked up a covered stainless steel Dutch oven at Big Lots — for $5.

Meet the new love of my life.

While searing this roast, I never expected the feeling of liberation that came over me. As I was struggling to turn 3 lbs. of meat with metal tongs and a spatula (so as not to pierce it and let the juices escape), I kept reminding myself it was OK to scrape the bottom of the pan. There was no non-stick surface to fear and coddle.

And then there were bits stuck to the bottom to deglaze with wine and my bamboo wok scraper!

My recipe calls for oven roasting at 275°, but I kept it on the stove and watched the action through the glass lid.

After 3 hours of simmering, things were pretty messy and I feared the pot might be totaled, but after just a few dabs with stainless steel, it’s good as new.

On the other hand, I’ve got this nice, heavy Emeril non-stick frying pan that’s all show — everything sticks to it. Now I’m thinking stainless steel is the way to go so I can start using “real” metal utensils again.

UnFoodie Conquers Pot Roast

October 24, 2011

By Karen

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.

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