Thursday, December 1, 2011


In the spirit of freezin’ mah arse off, I’ve continued my Winter Dinner Campaign, which, after conquering Roasted Tomato Soup and Roasted Squash Soup, I added Pot Roast and decided it was a formal endeavor. There will be points and a possible badge in the offing.
A few weeks ago, GingerMan’s favorite uncle passed away after a long term with prostate cancer, necessitating a quick trip to Belfast, NI.  I stayed behind due to work and the fact I can’t travel 5 time zones both ways in 4 days without losing my mind.  Jedi Jasmin invited me for dinner that Saturday night and served a meal theretofore forgotten to me and her hunky squeeze, the inimitable A.: Pot Roast. Paradise Reclaimed.
Two days later, having the day of Ginger’s return free, I reached for my Joy.  

What a lovely phrase.
Reach for your Joy.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the drastic event that has befallen you, for comfort, for sustenance, reach for your Joy.  No matter the depths this Seasonal Affective BS has dragged me to, cooking has somehow seemed my small triumph.  Food in the fridge, victory in the mental bank.  I picked the man up and we returned to a home redolent of comfort.
Our reading today comes from page 477 of the 2006 Joy of Cooking.  Actually, let’s back up the bus and refer to page 466,  where full discourse is given to different cuts suitable to Pot Roasting, Stewing and Braising Meat.  If you are Crock Pottin’ this sucker, time-travel to page 99 for recipe conversion information.  See?  Knowledge is Joy! Raaa-men.
Your next consideration after Procurement is obviously Soundtrack.  Today is 80’s Classic Hits, including Supertramp, Billy Joel, Duran Duran and Journey.  If you think "Don’t Stop Believin’" is an auto-tuned ditty sung by high-school be-boppers, stop here and hit iTunes right now. Search Journey.  Download "Don’t Stop", "Any Way You Want It", "Lights" (an ode to San Francisco) and "Separate Ways".  It’s Music for Red Meat.  And don’t forget the Scorpions. Rock your Chuck Roast like a Hurricane!
The recipe gives exact directions for pan/ dutch oven procedures. Follow those exactly, and if you have cast iron, this is the precise moment to employ it. I crock pot it.  If you haven’t given yourself this gift yet, DOOOO EEET!  I cannot express to you just how tender and gorgeous this formerly tough, chewy hunk of meat becomes after 8 hours on high--8 hours of cooking you do not have to be present for.  
Okay, start by reading through all the instructions.  Pull out all your aromatics.  I go for onion, garlic, carrot and leek. Pro Tip for onion cutting: do it last (duh), dump in a bowl and cover with a cold, wet paper towel.  This occurred to me as a naval recruit immediately after stepping out of the teargas chamber. As it was Illinois in February, we had had to wait days for this training exercise because cold wet air disperses the gas. 

Wage war on the bulb with Brawny.

Put them in bowls so they are handy when you have the hot pan going.  


This is called Mis-En-Place, basically meaning everything in place, ready to go. I mix kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl ready for rubbing on the meat.  I also mix my spices.  This go-round I’m experimenting with Penzeys Spices Forward! seasoning.  It’s like their seasoned salt, but without the salt, so I can control the amount the overall dish has.  

As Usual, I'm Smokey, Hot and Saucy

It’s made up of black pepper, onion and garlic powder, celery extract, paprika and a good amount of tumeric. Lovely, earthy, and evah-so-slightly hot but not overly so.  I add smoked paprika to nearly everything in the universe and the recipe calls for the traditional bay leaves that grace every soup and stew.
Oh, the hot pan?  Yes, this is the secret to successful Crock Potting.  Building flavor with a quick trip to the stovetop.  So a little oil in the pan and the aromatics hop in till soft.  I like to leave the leeks and carrots in a tiny bit longer for a bit of color, so I do these as a second batch and they all go in the crock as a nest for the hunk o’ beast. 

I like to deglaze the pan with some red wine and pour that in, then re-oil the pan liberally for the main event.
A word about The Taming of the Beasties.  

Warm up yer meat.  Take it out of the fridge before cooking, and if frozen, defrost in the fridge first.  Why?  No-one likes hopping from the A/C to the hot, mean streets, my friends.  We don’t and neither does our dinner, so give it a fighting chance or it will tend to seize up in an interesting and unattractive way.  It will also cook very, very unevenly.  Think spa treatment and everyone will be happier. Salt and pepper, pat lightly on all sides, and let it relax for a while.

Place the meat in the hot, oiled pan, then just leave it alone.  Sear it for color.  Sear it for flavor.  You will not be searing it to “seal in the juices”, as this is a myth.  Science has shown that this is not true, that the same amount of fluid is lost from seared meat as from meat placed directly in the long-term cooking vessel.  

But hummm-daddy, that Maillard Reaction, the gorgeous browning that imparts the incomparable flavor to seared meat will add that lip-smackin’ somethin’ special to your final dish.  You will need to turn the beastie, 5 minute per flat side, then use your tongs to hold it on the two long sides for a few minutes per. 

Voooy-ola!  Now just lay it on the bed of aromatics, deglaze the pan again and pour it over the meat.  

Pour in the requisite amount of liquid (I mix red wine and beef stock), place the crock in the machine, program and LEAVE IT!
BWOOOOHAHAHAHA!!!!!  Serious cooking, 1/2 hour of prep!
And that’s how I do (crock) pot.
Pin It Now!


  1. So sorry to hear about GingerMan's uncle. Hope there's nothing but good memories of him.

    But you are brilliant with the wet paper towel on the onions trick! As I am extremely susceptible to the onion fumes, this may save R from another call of "honey, please chop the onions for me!"

  2. Dayum Girl!

    You got me all hot and bothered and wanting to make that now.