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Friday, October 14, 2011

A Different Pot Roast

   Remember, a few days ago I told you the story of my husband being a beef man? Well, I guess it has been too long since we've had beef. He has requested pot roast for dinner today. Ahh, pot roast! As a child I despised the mere sound of the words. I didn't so much mind the beef or the potatoes or carrots, but the gravy? Yuk. It always seemed greasy to me. I could not get past the shiny stuff floating on top of the gravy to get to the real beefy part. So, sorry, Mom, I did not like your pot roast. At all.
   Then as a young adult I had the opportunity to have a friend's (okay, an old boyfriend's) mother's pot roast. Of course, hearing what was on the menu, I tried to opt out, but I was not in the position, on this particular day, to bow out gracefully. I was doomed to eat pot roast that day. Oh., bother!
  Arriving at the dinner table I immediately noticed a bowl of egg noodles. Hmm. Noodles? Okay, that's different. Then came a bowl of carrots in a deep orange-colored "sauce". Now that was really different. A platter of meat arrived, it, too looked different than what I had grown up with. Wow, this is pot roast?
   Well, yes, it was a version of beef roasted or braised in liquid in a large pot with carrots and onions, some beef broth, and an entire bottle of chili sauce. What? Chili sauce? I don't like spicy foods (or at least at that point of my life I did not like any spicy things.) I was told not to worry, it is not spicy, but sweet. Sweet?
    Onto my plate comes a large scoop of noodles, two slices of beef right next to it, then the orange-y sauce with the carrots in it was ladled on top. This is definitely not like any pot roast I have ever had before.
   Fork in hand,  I tried the noodles with the sauce first. Hey, that's pretty good! Then the carrots. Wow. Then some of the beef. Holy Moly! Now that is a pot roast I can actually enjoy!
   Have not seen that family in well over 25 years, but I still use their recipe, tweaked it a bit to ensure it gets sweet enough. And I adapted it to the crock pot to make my life really easy.

    Really different Pot Roast

  • 6 large carrots peeled and cut into 3 inch lengths and thick sticks (see photo)
  • 5 lb. beef rump roast, bottom round or chuck roast, trimmed of a lot of the outside fat
  • 1 large Vidalia onion --sliced or chopped
  • 1 cup flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon beef base
  • 1 bottle chili sauce (sorry I use Heinz--I have tried others, just not as good results)
  • 2 bottles (chili sauce bottles) of water
  • Hot cooked egg noodles-go ahead and make your own, its okay!
   Roll the beef around in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add the onions and let them sweat, turn translucent, and begin to brown around the edges. Add the floured beef and brown it really well on all sides.
   While the beef is browning, add the carrots to the bottom of the crock pot. We all know that the vegetables take longer to cook in a crock pot than the meat, right? If the onions start looking like they are going to burn, lift them out with a slotted spoon, leaving behind any grease there may be, but there usually isn't much at this point. Add them to the crock pot, sprinkle in a tablespoon of the sugar.
   When the meat is all good and browned all the way around remove it from the pan and set it on top of the carrots and onions in the crock pot (there won't be a lot of onions anymore--they're there for flavor.) Pour the bottle of chili sauce over the meat and around the sides. Skim out any excess oil in the pan, if there still is any. Add the teaspoon of beef base, and the two bottles of water using the chili sauce bottle. Stir it up well, with the heat on high to loosen any of the browned bits stuck to the pan.Pour this mixture into the crock pot, add the other 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cover and let it cook for 8 hours.
    Here's the carrots:

And the meat going in to the crock pot:

   It might not seem like a lot of juice right at the beginning, but when the meat starts releasing its juices, there will be plenty! You still have to skim off the fat that accumulates on the top, otherwise you will get that "greasy flotilla" shinning across the top. So skim away any clear liquid, it will be orange, but you can tell the difference between the floating fat and the actual gravy. If the gravy isn't thick enough at the end you can use any method you have had success with in your crock pot to thicken it. I have had no success in thickening gravy in a crock pot that worked fast enough for me so after removing the meat, and straining out as many carrots as I can I return the juices to the dutch oven from this morning and slowly add some roux I have made on the side until I get the thickness of gravy my family likes, which is on the thick side.

Pork tenderloin

   Nothing doing here for National Gumbo Day, although I have some friends who said they will send me their gumbo recipes, one with okra, one without. I have never had gumbo, or even okra for that matter, and okra's reputation does not bode well for gumbo being included in my future plans of favorite meals. We shall see, however, we shall see.
   Several friends have told me that fried okra is the way to go--one likes it breaded and fried and the other, batter fried. That, right there, shows me how varied my results will probably be. So let's stick with a subject I am much better versed with, pork. Ah, I know, we have already done something for National Pork month, but there's so much one can do with pork, I feel it deserves more coverage. 
   Last week we tackled a boneless loin of pork, with sweet and sour pork made from the leftovers, this week I have a beautiful pork tenderloin, or pork eye fillet, as some areas call it. Either way, its the same cut. It comes from inside the loin. It is called a "lazy muscle" because it doesn't move much, which makes it lean and tender. Yes they can be a little pricey @ $5.99 a pound, but there is virtually no waste, no fat, no bone. Its "all good."
It cooks fast, so be wary it can overcook very quickly, as well. But once you learn how to prepare this cut, you will watch for sales in the store and stock up. This cut is a win-win in my house--with all the players giving it a thumbs up.
   The piece I got is 1.89 pounds, and that is about average for this cut, they run usually between one and one half pounds to two and a quarter pounds per package. I aim for the larger, but being one child is away at college I can get away with a slightly smaller piece. Oh, and don't be surprised when you open the package and out pops two pieces, its the way they come, always. Rinse off the meat and pat dry with a paper towel. If there is any silver-skin do your best to remove it by grabbing a loose piece and slowly, but very firmly, pulling it away from the flesh.
   Marinating is the way to go, here and there are about a zillion recipes out there. Here's one of my favorites:

      Pork Tenderloin Marinade
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • grated zest of one half lemon
  • the juice of a full lemon
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
Put all ingredients in your food processor and spin until smooth. Yes, the rosemary will still be little sticks, but do the best you can. Put prepared meat in gallon sized zip top bag, pour in the marinade and massage the meat for a minute or two. Zip the top closed and let meat marinate for at least four hours in the refrigerator. Drain the marinade, but reserve it to baste the meat once or twice while cooking. Place meat on rack in roaster pan and roast at 375°F for 35-40 minutes. Best to use a meat thermometer here, as this will overcook quite rapidly. You may notice that the meat still has a slight pink tint. This is okay, if you read up on these things, they have cut the recommendations for pork from the "cook it until there are no more juices" to "some pink is acceptable" Here's a link to check me out: Click here for the new USDA recommendations for cooking pork. By dropping that temperature from 160° F to 145° F, they have made pork a brand new meat, in essence, because it really tastes like something, now. I have to admit, however, that I take this cut out at 140°F, and if you read that article completely you'll see where I got the inspiration--and nerve. I am happy to report I have not sent anyone in my household to the hospital with cooking this pork to 140°f then letting it rest for 15 minutes to let the temperature continue to rise to the 145°F. Ah, heaven!
   I have some sweet potatoes that are going to start shriveling up soon, so I am going to bake them, whole, then split them, add butter and brown sugar and put them back in the oven for about 15 minutes for the sugar to caramelize. Kind of a cheater candied sweet potatoes recipe, but it will work for us.
   I am also going to heat up some chunky, homemade applesauce. I have been nice and have not served applesauce in over a week, so its time, again, I still have apples on some trees, so I have to go into overdrive on getting them picked and canned.
   Back to the pork. After the meat has rested, slice it into about 1/2 inch slices, serve it with your choice of dips, if your family does that. Additionally, you can bring the reserved marinade up to a boil and boil it for 10 minutes and serve that as a sauce for the meat, as well. I don't particularly care for reusing marinades that raw meat has sat in, but they tell me by boiling it for 10 minutes you take care of whatever...Not comforting to me, so if you chose to do that, its at your own risk. 
   You can also just swath a tenderloin or two in a combination of either duck sauce and barbeque sauce, or apricot jam and barbeque sauce, or orange marmalade and barbeque sauce, notice the common thread being the barbeque sauce. Any brand works well. Me? You know I make mine from scratch! But that's a different day!
   Hope to hear from all of you with your questions and comments. Thanks for listening!