Today was my Saturday 1/2 day of work. If it had ended at noon I would have been happier but Saturday work is 9-1 PM. Yes, I can sleep a little later but I was up right on time. I just wanted it over with because Saturday work isn't exactly productive on the phones, more angry people and the lines were busy today, not nearly 'dead' as they often are.
Therefore the laundry load was washed up before I ever opened my line but didn't get to hang out until after 1 PM, nor was I able to deal with Don's bedding, he didn't get up until 8 minutes before I opened my line and the coffee was already old. He was grumpy.
What did I get done today? Not a whole lot, hauling trash out, some dishes, some laundry, and I made dinner. I also had a nice surprise from my sister Bets who stopped by for a visit after I had stowed the pot roast in the oven and hung around until I put the pumpkin bread in the machine. This is an iffy recipe. Usually pumpkin bread is a 'quick bread' sweet and rich more cake than bread. But I wanted to try a YEAST bread and it's still in the works, we'll see how it comes out, bomb or glory is still to be determined.
After the end of yesterday, I was pooped, really tired and there were things I needed to do, but I didn't. I made up Don's dinner, I cheated and zapped a few taters and onions in a little bacon leavings until crispy and topped with cheese for a mini-feast. It put me right out. I was in bed and sawing logs by 8:30. Talk about exciting Friday nights, that's me, about as unexciting as can be.
I prepped all I could and told Don to holler if he needed help getting to bed. With his walker he managed sometime around 11:30. I never heard anything, he didn't holler or I would have awakened. I was just tired.
Today I had two little pot roasts to make to stretch and share, ON SALE, the combined amount $10.86, not bad for 3.5 lbs. I didn't have the 'extra' carrots for today because I'll need the bulk for tomorrow's dinner, but a ton of celery, sweet onion, garlic, and the russet potatoes that were on sale. Making up the classic pot roast.
Normally I'd brine them, but one good thing about a chuck pot roast, you really don't need to. You just need to give it the time it needs to cook down, this is not a dinner to be rushed which is why the "Sunday Pot Roast" is a classic because that's the first thing MOM started once home from church because it needed a nice long time to cook down.
There is nothing to compare to a fine pot roast, and to be honest, the fattier it is, the better the flavor, there are no bones here, the fat IS going to flavor it all, including the potatoes even though you layer them over the mass.
Why? Because you are gonna use your Dutch Oven, you silly.
If you don't have one, GET one. Yes, you can spend $40-$50 on a nice porcelain coated dutch oven but if "I" could pick for you, get a Lodge, actual cast iron, NOT porcelain-coated.
ONE OF THESE:
Yes, you can spend less, likely a lot less, not put in the time to season it or keep it well seasoned, but if you do, if you will, this will be the BEST tool in your kitchen save your chef's knife because you can cook ANYTHING in it from dinners to breads to cakes to anything, anything at all.
Why buy a BIG one? Why so heavy and so large?
I use it for the leftovers and if you think this makes a lot, just await tomorrow because I'll be making a monster-sized soup that even the dutch oven won't hold because I need to make enough to share a lot.
But more on that tomorrow...and if you are making this soup which is pretty cheap per serving and to share, it's a little involved but totally worth every minute you spend on it.
We are coming into the cooler months, stepping away from the grill, not completely yet, but soon. I know many who will stand outside in a near blizzard to grill. I'm not one of those. I've got my dutch oven and I can make something BETTER inside the house than standing outside in the frigid winds and cold. Don't get me wrong, I love to grill and this weather is better than the summer heat to grill, but my tastebuds are calling for braised meats, soups, stews, not grilling, not right now. Maybe next week.
Therefore, if you are running short on time the day before and not brining but have about 3.5 to 4 hours to work a special Sunday dinner, this is your Go-To dish!
When I was growing up, special "Sunday" Dinners were a roasted chicken or a pot roast...if it was REALLY special, and cold out, not BBQ season, we might get a pork roast with sauerkraut smothered in brown sugar with mashed potatoes...(that's it, I've got a boston butt in the freezer, as soon as it gets cold, I'm making that--quintessential my MOM and hands down favorite dish of all time, bar ANYTHING else from Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, I don't care, the pork roast and sauerkraut made just right I can eat until I'm ill from it).
Okay, so OTHER fav dishes, corned beef hash, have you seen the price on a can of corned beef? Almost $5 for ONE can? really? That was 'cheapie' food growing up. Or meatballs and noodles with gravy?
The one best constant when the weather got cold was that treat, even after I married and came over for Sunday, was Mom's pork roast and sauerkraut. Don hated it, still won't eat it, but Erin's a total convert. I have to pour plain 'kraut into a small pot to let Don eat it plain but he misses the whole point of the incredible combination. Geez, now I want THAT!
((Shakes head to clear the mind))
What was my FIRST successful dish I EVER learned to cook?
A POT ROAST!
And my momma trusted me to make that at 13 or 14 years old. I knew how that went together in the electric skillet, not a dutch oven, not anything else, right on the kitchen counter and you had to watch it closely, add liquid, seasonings, turn up and down. Seated at the table with the skillet 4 feet from my back, it required watching. I was never so proud of myself over the first time I was able to deliver a good pot roast with the carrots, onions, and potatoes nearly perfect when Mom came home from work, relieving her of dinner duty and nary a scrap was left after she checked it. She fixed the rest of the veges and I was to set the table and told me I did a good job...following HER instructions. I didn't understand the why or wherefore of those instructions back then, but I do now.
Back then, the Electric Skillet was more of a 'new-fangled' idea but it was braising as the heat rose and fell. After all these years, while I love the electric skillet for frying chicken, if I'm going to make a pot roast, the dutch oven is the best bet all around.
I followed the 'season and sear' on each side, to have the veges prepped, then add the rest of the seasonings she listed, add the little bit of water, lid it, turn down the heat, open the vent and watch and listen, add liquid as needed. Yeah, she was braising on a shortmeasure the pot roast and managed to have it done in 3 hours via her kid as a conduit.
One thing I know how to do, follow instructions.
Understanding them at aged 14, nope, but I followed.
However, if you want a step up from the basics, a non-mid-70's version and not the 'hurry-up' sort of pot roast that will give you the richness that a pot roast deserves, here is that version:
3.5 LBS. POT ROAST, LIKELY 2 SMALL ONES
1 LARGE SWEET ONION--CHOPPED
2-4 CARROTS, PEELED AND CHOPPED (PLEASE USE MORE, I'M SHORT TODAY, NEED THE REST TOMORROW)
5-6 LARGE RIBS OF CELERY--WASHED AND CHOPPED
4-5 CLOVES OF GARLIC OR ABOUT 1 1/4 TABLESPOONS OF GRANULATED GARLIC
4-5 LBS OF WASHED RUSSET POTATOES CHUNKED INTO LARGE QUARTERS, DON'T MAKE THEM TOO SMALL
2 TABLESPOONS MARJORAM
2-4 LARGE SPRIGS OF ROSEMARY STRIPPED FROM STEMS AND CHOPPED (OR 1 1/2 TABLESPOONS DRIED) FRESH IS BETTER
1 TABLESPOON OF SOY SAUCE
3-4 BAY LEAVES
1 CAN WARM BEER, CHEAP IS TOTALLY FINE, THAT'S ALL I HAVE.
1/2 TABLESPOON OF SUGAR
1/3 CUP KETCHUP (SHUT UP, WILL EXPLAIN LATER)
3-4 SHAKES OF HOT SAUCE
1 TABLESPOON CANOLA OIL
PLENTY OF SALT/FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
THIS IS A SHORT LIST, YOU DON'T NEED A LOT OF INGREDIENTS HERE.
Season the chuck roasts with salt, pepper, the soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of the granulated garlic, and about a teaspoon of the marjoram. Allow to rest about 30 minutes to warm from the fridge to take the chill off prior to searing.
PREP THE ONIONS, CELERY, AND CARROTS:
Set the oven to 335 degrees to heat up.
Heat the dutch oven over medium heat, add the canola oil.
Sear each side and remove. Sear for 5-6 minutes to get that color, brown it, but don't burn it.
Then add the onions, celery, carrots, more salt and pepper.
Work over that medium heat for 6-9 minutes, move it around until tender.
Then add the pot roasts over the top of the veges.
Top with the warm beer to braise with, sprinkle with more granulated garlic.
Then add the potatoes, more salt, pepper, marjoram, and the freshly chopped rosemary.
Lid and into the oven for about 3.5 hours. The potatoes are raised above the pot roasts which will braise until tender and the potatoes will not just steam tender but also roast a bit.
Once all is tender...scoop out the potatoes to a waiting bowl and lid. Remove the pot roast to a platter and cover with foil.
Into the dutch oven, the pot leavings, it's time to make gravy, with all the melty onions and celery. Remember the equal parts fat to flour, should be about a cup, so add a good cup of AP flour, more salt, more pepper, the hot sauce and turn the heat on top of the stove to medium low. It'll make a paste as it sizzles, call it a roux and allow the flour to cook down a bit before adding the rest.
After about 4-6 minutes, add the ketchup. Hush up, you'll never know it was there, adds the body you will need and a hint of sweetness. Stir it all around, let it sizzle some more, add the water, about 20 oz. Add in 8 oz. increments, turn up the heat just slightly and keep whisking, it'll thicken. Taste for flavor, add more salt, pepper, hot sauce, marjoram, or granulated garlic--find your balance on your palate. Once right and to the thickness you want, turn off the heat.
After 15 minutes of the meat under foilas it rests, remove, cut up, slice up, serve up...potatoes, pot roast, and top with the gravy. Side for Don was his 'request' of frozen multi-veg..corn, carrots, green beans, and peas--enough to box up for three meals cuz I won't touch that stuff. He still prefers my version to the 'canned' VEG-ALL he asked for, memories of his youth. I gave it to him last night--warmed up a CAN. He only ate it on principle as I watched him, he grimaced. It's exactly what he remembered but now horrible to his tastebuds. "Have a nice day!" You ask, you demand, you get exactly what you asked for...UGH! I can tell you the OTHER can I have will never be eaten. Just know he DEMANDED it, his 'food' memories of his youth are certainly not the same so many years later. I only know that he's long told me the ONLY spices his mother ever used were salt and pepper---there wasn't a spice cabinet in the kitchen. (And I'm pretty sure this is true, she now waits for weekend deliveries from MY kitchen).
Then came the whine.."It's a bad can..."
I rolled my eyes, "It's not." It's just not what he remembers but exactly what you grew up on. Not anything remotely like he's eaten for the last 30 years. I DO know the minute he ate my mother's cooking, he never looked back--save the pork roast and sauerkraut only because he doesn't comprehend a 'sweet/tangy' sauerkraut other than the totally sour stuff.
I didn't even break a smile, I didn't.
I just played nurse, fed him, he scraped his plate. I smiled and cleaned up the mess as the bread was finishing up.
This will cool a while. Not a sweet QUICK bread like cake, made a 'yeast' bread filled with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. It'll either be boom or bust. I won't know yet for a while.
FABULOUS WEEKEND DINNER?
CHUCK ROASTS (ON SALE) 3.5 LBS: $10.86
SWEET ONION: $.35
RUSSET POTATOES: $3.25
SUNDRY INGREDIENTS: $1.00
COST PER SERVING: $16.36/7=$2.34
FROZEN VEGES: $.75
COST PER SERVING: $.75/3=$.25
BREAD (UNKNOWN QUALITY AT THIS POINT)
CANNED PUMPKIN: $.1.60
COST PER SERVING: $2.00/8=$.25
HOWEVER, OVERALL, COSTS PER SERVING, IF THE BREAD WORKS OUT: $2.60 OR $2.70, NOT A BAD DEAL ALL AROUND
Even if the bread doesn't work out, the pot roast was a treat, rich and memorable.
When you can, make a pot roast, you won't disappoint anyone. The plates will come back clean, they always do.
Eat well, sleep well, get in touch with your inner memories from childhood and your carnivore-self.
Tomorrow! Chicken noodle soup, massive amount, roasting and stock early!