Tuesday, November 04, 2014

French Pot Roast

When I was little, my parents owned a small country inn on a beautiful alpine lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We provided our guests with a modified American plan, which meant that we served them breakfast and dinner.  My mother was the cook, and my Dad was the host extraordinaire/maintenance man. My Italian grandmother used to prepare the evening meal until I was about 8, since my mother had a serious heart condition and sometimes needed to lie down in the afternoon.

When I was seven, my Mom had open heart surgery and was so much better that my grandmother "retired" to her cottage across the lake, and my Mom cooked both meals.  Well, sometimes she got sick, like everyone else, and the summer before I was ten, that happened.  My grandmother was not at the cottage, and we needed to serve dinner to a small number of guests, maybe 20 or so. My Mom was distraught, but she couldn't stand up because of dizziness.  I was nearly ten, old enough to follow directions, so, the first dinner that I ever cooked, was for 20 guests, 3 waitresses, one helper, my parents and myself. 27 people.  It was pot roast. My mother lay on a cot in the office, just beyond the kitchen, and gave me detailed instructions, one step at a time.  We had tomato juice for a starter, pot roast with vegetables and salad, and ice cream sundaes for dessert.

 I will never, ever forget that day, and the sense of accomplishment I felt - not only because I had cooked a tasty meal, but because I had helped my family in our business - our livelihood.  I contributed something important and valuable.  Talk about raising my confidence level!

I always loved pot roast, which is an old New England favorite,  It's comfort food for me.  When I married, I made pot roast in my own home often, because I loved it and because it was so easy in my crock pot.  I make it lots of different ways, but this is my favorite, easy, go-to recipe. You will need a 6 quart pot.

French Pot Roast

4-5 lbs rump or chuck roast, with or without bones (save the bones for stock)
1 1/2 C dry red wine plus 1/4 C water, or any combo of alcohol and water
2 beef or mushroom bouillion cubes
1 tsp tabasco or other hot sauce (I like Sriracha best)
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmet
1/2 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dry tarragon
6 celery stalks
6 carrots, scraped, cut into chunks
4-5 medium onions, skins on, cut into quarters
4 potatoes, scrubbed, cut in quarters
1/2 lb mushrooms, wiped clean, cut in half (or left whole)
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/4 Cup white flour

Dredge meat in flour.  Place in pot. Mix dry ingredients and sprinkle over the meat. Place vegetables into the pot, with mushrooms on the top, and carrots on the bottom.  Make sure that the carrots will be submerged in the liquid. Pour liquids over all. Cover tightly and simmer. When cooked, remove meat and vegetables to a platter.  The liquids will be slightly thickened, but you can taste for salt and pepper and thicken a bit more if you like to provide a gravy.  Let the roast stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Crockpot: Cook on medium-low all day, 8 - 10 hours, or 4 hours on high.

Microwave: Deeply pierce the roast many times on all sides prior to cooking.  Place in a large, 5 or 6 quart casserole that fits in your microwave and has a tightly fitting cover.  Cook at 50% for 30 - 35 minutes per lb of meat.  Turn the roast over after half the cooking time. Add the vegetables at the half way mark.

Pressure: Put meat, liquid and spices in pot. Cook at 10 lbs for 45 minutes.  Let the pressure reduce naturally.  Add all veggies, bring to pressure, and cook at 10 lbs for 6 minutes. Let pressure reduce naturally.

Stove top:  Simmer slowly for 4 hours, checking to make sure that the liquid has not boiled away.

Oven:  Covered tightly, bake at 325 for 2 - 3 hours, till tender, and checking the liquid level a few times.

Notes; I seldom use the flour anymore.  I often leave out the potatoes and serve it with mashed potatoes instead.  Use the vegetables you have on hand and like - I've used rutabagas and sweet potatoes, too!  I often leave out the mushrooms if I don't have them, but I usually have mushroom soup base that I will substitute for the beef bouillion. I usually use the red wine, but I have substituted a dry white, a rose, brandy or beer.  This last time, I only had marsala and sherry in my cupboard, so I used half brandy and half water, and it was delicious!

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