Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pot Roast

I have never made or eaten a pot roast in my life.  Until Sunday.  Most cultures have some sort of dish that involves a cheap, tough cut of meat cooked over a low heat for a long period of time.  For example, Jews have brisket.  This may be done differently in every Jewish family and deli, but over all, we do brisket.  Pot roast was a slightly foreign subject to me, although it turns out, it’s similar in preparation:  Brown it, cook it in liquid with aromatic vegetables, and cook it for a long period of time. 

Last weekend, my friend Jacky told me she had recently made a pot roast, and I had to make it.  I was immediately enchanted.  I was also enchanted by what she reported for her chosen side dish:  mashed potatoes.  I will take any excuse to make mashed potatoes, including pot roast.  The truth is that soon it will be warm, and soon my apartment will be very warm.  I am desperately clinging to my waning opportunities to make comfort foods, and pot roast/mashed potatoes fits perfectly into that category.

It turns out that pot roast is truly delightful.  I think that searing the meat is key.  (For the record, I used a chuck roast based on the recommendation of a charming butcher at Whole Foods.)  I digress:  make sure to give that roast a deep, dark, brown crust.  It’s worth the time, and it’s worth the discipline to leave that roast untouched as each side sizzles in the pan.  As for the pan, I used my soup pot, and braised my pot “roast” on the stove.  Many recipes call for a low oven, but my oven is the bane of my existence.  The only other advice you need is to season that brick of meat liberally, slice your vegetables thick, and don’t skimp on the butter in your mashed potatoes.  This is a perfect Sunday night dinner:  tender meat and vegetables, savory broth, an apartment that smells intoxicating, and unavoidably jealous neighbors.

Pot Roast

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 lb. chuck roast
5 carrots, sliced
5 celery stalks sliced
¼ pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 springs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cups liquid (I used a combination of 1 cup red wine, 1 ½ cups chicken stock, ½ cup water – all in all, pretty flexible)
Kosher salt, pepper, Lawry’s seasoned salt, garlic salt

-       Season roast liberally
-       In a large stock pot with tight fitting lid, preheat olive oil over medium high heat
-       Sear roast on all sides until browned (this should take about 5 minutes per side.  Leave it alone and let it brown.  Set a timer if necessary to keep your hands off of it)
-       Add liquid and scatter vegetables and herbs around the roast (some vegetables will not be submerged)
-       Cover and reduce heat to low so liquid simmers
-       Braise for 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes, until meat begins to fall apart (the braising liquid should be bubbling, but not boiling)
-       Serve meat and vegetables over mashed potatoes (watch out for bay leaves and the stems of rosemary and thyme)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I actually do cook food other than soups, but somehow soup seems to be the only thing I am motivated to write about.  Soon, it will be too swelteringly hot in my apartment to make soup, so please bear with me.  Alas, I present you with one more soup recipe: straciatella.  The recipe is the result of highly impromptu cooking.  Straciatella is a combination of chicken noodle and egg drop soup with an Italian flair.  I have been thinking about making it for a bit.  When it crossed my mind again this morning, I realized I had almost all of the ingredients already, including these darling, teeny, tiny star shaped noodles.  I bought them over two months ago, and I have been stewing over the perfect recipe to utilize them in.  Every time I open my kitchen cabinet and lay eyes on them, I find myself sighing dreamily.  They are just that cute.  Straciatella was the perfect excuse to eat them by the heaping spoonful.
In brief, my straciatella is a broth-based soup with the aforementioned noodles.  Before serving, an egg beaten with parmesan cheese is streamed into the soup, creating tender cheesy, eggy strands thoughout the hot broth.  I added carrots to the soup to flavor to the canned broth, and to prevent monotonous texture.  I seasoned it with cayenne, dried parsley, and black pepper.  Yum.


 - Bring 5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth to a simmer, and add 2 diced carrots and 2 whole cloves of garlic.  Season broth with a healthy dash of cayenne pepper, freshly ground pepper, and a tablespoon of dried parsley.
 - Allow carrots to simmer for 10 minutes, or until they start to become tender.  Add a half cup stelline (star-shaped) pasta.  Allow soup to simmer until the pasta is tender.
 - In the meantime, beat together one egg and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.  Season with black pepper.
 - When pasta and carrots are tender, reduce the heat until the soup is at a bare simmer.  Stir in egg mixture slowly so that strands of egg form.  Remove garlic cloves.  Garnish soup with extra parmesan and pepper, and enjoy.