When the weather takes a turn to the cold I immediately want to start cooking warm hearty meals. I want to make giant pots of soup, and loaves of warm crusty bread, and stews, and all of those rustic hot dishes that you associate with the cold weather. To be honest though I never actually seem to do this.
For one thing, I do not actually like stew. The few times I have made it I always make the remark afterwards of "Oh yea, I am not a stew fan.". I have also never baked a loaf of bread in my life even though I own a bread maker. I think it is out of laziness or possibly the fact that my Kroger has a really decent bakery in it.
Still this urge is overwhelming sometimes and I just have to give in. With the impending icepacolypse last week I decided I wanted to try my hand at pot roast. I know for a fact that I adore pot roast so it was a pretty safe plan for something tasty to eat. I could put it on early on one of the ice days and come supper time we would have a warm hearty meal to fill our bellies.
I set out last Wednesday to first off find a recipe for pot roast that looked good. Again since I never follow through on these cold weather cooking urges, I have never actually made pot roast. I know the basics of a pot roast but I wanted to see if there were any tricks I could incorporate into my cooking. Always take pro tips when you can.
The search was frustrating. I discovered almost instantly that the crock-pot craze that has been going strong lately was more of an epidemic than I thought. We have turned into a crock pot nation. People have apparently stopped slow cooking in anything other than one of these electric wonder machines. It is the no thought cook alternative that makes people happy.
Here is the thing; we are a crock-pot free household. First off I have never in my life so much as heated up queso in a crock-pot. We didn't own one growing up. I learned to cook things that require slow cooking the old fashioned way; on the stove or in the oven. Spaghetti sauce and soup were things that simmered on the stove top and were lovingly attended to all day long. Roasts went into the oven. We used a dutch oven when needed. This was just how I was raised so I have no idea how to cook in a crock-pot.
Secondly, the husbeast refuses to eat from one. Don't get me wrong, if we went to a friends house and they made us dinner out of a crock-pot I am pretty sure he would eat the food, but mostly because he is polite. When he was growing up his step father had no teeth and had an intense love of a crock-pot. Apparently their meals would be put in the crock-pot and cooked down until they were basically hot soupy mix. He says it was the day he got a steak that he could drink through a straw that he swore he would never eat from them again.
So in the interest of a happy marriage, I do not even attempt to use a crock-pot. I am fairly certain if someone gifted us one under the theory that if he had good food out of one he would change his mind, one of three things would happen. 1) He would throw it in the garbage. 2) He would re-gift it. 3) He would leave it in the box, in the attic, and years from now the next owners of our house would get a surprise bonus of a crock-pot with purchase of house.
So crock-pot recipes don't really do me much good. I know that I can apply the same principles to a dutch oven, but still I would like to see a few more recipes that do not rely on the wonder gadget. Maybe that is just me being old fashioned or whatever, but it is how I am.
I finally settled on something that sounded good to me. I went with red onion (because we like red onions more than white onions), mushrooms (because while I didn't see any recipes involving mushrooms, we love mushrooms), baby carrots (because they come pre-peeled and I am lazy), and small red potatoes. There is apparently a huge debate between small red potatoes and mashed potatoes, but I don't really care. Potatoes are potatoes and these were easier, and this meal was all about the easy. I also decided that I would use lots of garlic and some red pepper to give it a little kick. My plan was sounding like a winner.
The plan was to cook this on Saturday, however time got away from me and that did not happen. Sunday also was a bust. Finally I managed to get around to cooking it last night. I had all my ingredients, and was ready to go. All I needed was my dutch oven and we were in business.
Now I have never used our dutch oven. Like I said I never manage to follow through on the urge to cook foods that would go into a dutch oven so it is a fairly useless piece of equipment in our world. Still I knew that at some point someone had given us one. I just needed to find it.
After a thorough search of the kitchen I realized that I was apparently wrong in my assumption that we owned a dutch oven because we clearly don't. This did complicate matters. I discovered in fact I do not own any deep baking dishes or roasting pans. My pyrex was woefully undersized for the task at hand. In the end I discovered I only own one oven safe dish that was an appropriate size for this sort of roast; an old soup pot (which honestly was a little too small, but I am good at making things fit).
Necessity is the mother of invention though, so I made due with what I had. I quickly seasoned and then seared the meat and tossed it in the pot. All of the veggies then also got the same treatment. After they were all in the pot I poured in some beef stock and added more seasoning. This was pretty simple after I found something to cook it in.
I covered the top with a ton of tinfoil and then shoved it into the oven at 275 and walked away. I think honestly that walking away was the hardest part. I have a want, no a need, to futz with my food. The solution ended up being to just leave the house and go run errands so I couldn't give in to the temptation to open the pot and look.
After a little over 3 hours I finally pulled the pot out of the oven. Honestly it was supposed to stay in at least another 15 minutes, and I would have loved to leave it in another 45. The thing is it was already almost an hour and a half past our normal dinner time and I was getting to 'fat girl needs a sammich' phase.
I told the husbeast that it was time to see if the pot roast turned out or if we would be ordering a pizza. I pulled the meat out of the pot and was pleased. It wasn't falling apart tender, but it really was almost there. I popped a piece in my mouth and it tasted pretty damn good.
Once I had gotten all of the meat and veggies out of the pot I grabbed some corn starch and salt and went to making a gravy out of the leftover juice. I was worried for a while that I had added too much corn starch, but then the consistency came together perfectly. I actually think that the gravy was by far the best part of the entire meal.
I heated up some rosemary potato bread that I had picked up at Kroger, and added that to the side of a heaping steaming bowl of pot roast and settled in on the couch under a blanket to enjoy. Other than the fact that the meat wasn't as tender as I hoped for, I thought it turned out wonderfully. The husbeast agreed with this assessment. He even pointed out that he did not try and put ketchup on it (which trust me is no small miracle).
In the end I call this a total win. With a little ingenuity, a lot of determination, and the inspiration of some very frigid weather, I think I have come up with a meal that could easily, and happily, be repeated. Now I just need to go out and buy an actual dutch oven.