Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Dinner: Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Green Beans and Brussels Sprout Salad

...and gravy - the most beautiful dark, rich and silky gravy I've seen in quite a while. Individually and together Lynn (my fearless Friday night cooking confederate), and I have made many a pot roast, other braised beast or stew. We KNOW our braised meats and stews - the aromatics, the herbs, the liquids, the sauce and layering of flavors and this last Friday's pot roast was one for the hall o'fame. Some recipes call for chuck OR meat from the round, but we think that nothing beats meat from the chuck for a pot roast. It can be boneless or bone-in.
From: Wikipedia

The Friday before we cooked this meal, we were out to dinner with some friends from Florida and I had a side of green beans. "Okay, green beans. And...?" Both of us add pressed garlic to the last stage of cooking, tossing it with the beans - they are always damned good, but these green beans had tiny flecks of garlic all over each bean. They wore a dusting of a fine brunoise of garlic that absolutely made its presence known, but didn't get in the way of the bean flavor. A fine brunoise is a cut that is 1/16" x 1/16" of an inch. This, rather than a paste, makes total bean coverage possible. They tasted fantastic so we did the same to our beans.

I used 2 medium cloves of garlic for the amount of beans we prepared. Was it worth the effort? I'm a very happy camper when I'm holding a chef's knife, slicing, dicing, mincing or brunoise-ing my way through a big pile of produce so I'm inclined to pick up a knife in any case, but yeah, it was worth it. Any time you want this kind of garlic coverage, this is the way to go. I love my 9" chef's knife but this is a job for a smaller, very sharp (of course!) knife.
Shredded (raw) brussels sprouts, sliced, toasted almonds, garlic for the green beans
cut in a fine brunoise, and a paste of 1 clove of garlic for the vinaigrette
 Raw Brussels sprout salad. I love b-sprouts and have cooked them every which way so we figured we'd give a raw salad a shot. Excellent idea! Mustard-y vinaigrette with some aged cheese grated (with a microplane) into the dressing and some extra tossed in at service. Next time, we're going to add some tart apple. For you  Brussels sprouts naysayers out there, raw b-sprouts are quite mild tasting.

  • Pot Roast
  • Gravy
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlic Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
  • Shredded Raw Brussels Sprout Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette and Aged Cheese
POT ROAST and VEGETABLES ---------------------------------------------
Serves 4-6

We cooked a 5 lb roast - more than were needed to feed three people over two nights because we wanted (a) leftovers; and (b) enough to use in this Friday's penne pasta. To serve 4-6, a 3 1/2 to 4 lb roast will do the trick. Except for salt, pepper and the flavoring of the vegetables, we didn't use any additional herbs or spices in this version. Other than salt and pepper, I like to go easy on the seasoning of the meat when it's a great piece of meat.

We forgot to add the pearl onions (don't you forget!). Pearl onions are about the only vegetable, besides peas and edamame, that I will buy buy frozen. It not difficult to start from scratch to prepare pearl onions and even though prep is nearly always my favorite part of the cooking process, I find no joy in preparing pearl onions.

Equipment: 1 5-7 quart heavy-bottom dutch oven
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F - rack in the middle

  • 1 3 1/2 to 4 lb boneless cross-rib chuck roast or other shoulder, boneless roast.
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • salt
  • 2-3 carrots, cut in 3" pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, cut in 3" pieces
  • 2 1/2  cups red wine (suggestion: a Côtes du Rhône or a Rioja), divided 
  • 2 cups stock or low-sodium broth (beef, or a combination of beef and chicken)
  • About a dozen button mushrooms - white or crimini. If large, quartered, if medium, halved

Remove from the refrigerator an hour before cooking. If the roast is tied, remove the string. Season with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and ground pepper all over the surface, including any nooks and crannies. If the roast is tied, remove the string and season the nooks and crannies. Re-tie the roast with additional butcher's twine. Allow to rest for an hour.

  • Heat the pan on medium for 10 to 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan and immediately add the roast. Sear on all sides (including the ends) for 5-7 minutes until a nice brown crust has developed over the entire surface.
  • Remove the meat to a platter. Pour off the residual fat and reserve (if you are going to use it for the gravy).
  • De-glaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up the fond with a wooden spoon. Reduce the wine/fond mixture until the wine has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Reserve this liquid for the gravy in a small bowl.
  • Return the pan in which you browned the pot roast to the heat (medium). Add 1 tablespoon of oil and when it shimmers, add about 1/3 of the vegetables and lightly caramelize them. Remove to a bowl with the remaining vegetables  De-glaze the pan with 1/2 cup of the red wine, scrape up any fond with a wooden spoon and reduce to a thin glaze. Reserve this liquid for the gravy, adding it to the reserved, de
  • Place the roast back in the pot, add 2 cups stock and 1 cup red wine. The liquid should not come up more than about 1/3 of the way up the roast. Cover the pot and place in the oven on the middle rack. If your cover is not tight, cover the pot snugly with foil and then place the cover on the pot. For the first two hours, turn the roast every 30 minutes. After two hours, add the vegetables into the pot and check the meat by sticking a dinner fork in the roast and turn it. It probably won't be done after two hours, but this gives you a point of reference. Add water if the liquid is too low. The roast is ready when the fork turns easily, and the meat strands are tender but not soggy.
  • Remove the roast and vegetables and cover tightly while making the gravy. Remove the fat from the pot roast cooking liquid and reserve it for the gravy.

POT ROAST GRAVY---------------------------------------------
Makes approximately 4 cups gravy

So much of our pan sauce or gravy making is done by taste that I’ve added some additional notes.
  • The darker the roux the less thickening power it will have. The ratio of fat and flour (roux) to liquids is generally 1 tablespoon of each (fat and flour) to 1 cup liquids
  • Sometimes I make more roux than I think I’ll need and reserve a little if the gravy seems too thin after standing off heat a few minutes. Gravy thickens on standing and if it’s too thick, add additional stock or water in small amounts (a couple of tablespoons at a time or less), combine well and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Lastly, two things: if you are going to add herbs, I think you should do so with restraint – if you’ve got a kick-ass meat gravy, any added herbs should: (a) compliment the flavors; and (b) be a ‘grace note’ rather than an up-front flavor. Finally, sometimes a little lemon juice, or vinegar can brighten a sauce you think is over-rich. When I use lemon, I like to do so off-heat. If using vinegar, add a couple of teaspoons or so at a time, cook for a couple of minutes and then taste.
  • 4 tablespoons butter (if salted, take this into consideration when you season with additional salt) or reserved fat from browning the roast
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • De-glazing liquid set aside from the pot roast and from sautéing the aromatics (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup red wine (suggestion: a Côtes du Rhône or a Rioja)
  • 3 cups total reserved, de-fatted pot roast cooking liquid, or  stock, low sodium broth or water (we used beef, but a combination of beef and chicken works, too)
  • Salt and black pepper

  • Add the fat to a 2 (or more) quart pan pre-heated on medium heat. When the fat shimmers or, if using butter when the foaming subsides, add the flour and combine completely. I use a whisk if I’m using a pan with sloping sides and a flat-edged wooden spatula if the pan’s sides are perpendicular. Cook this mixture at least 5 minutes, scraping it up from the bottom and stirring frequently to avoid burning and adjusting the heat down if necessary. The longer you cook, the darker the roux. Ours was a color between light and medium toast.
  • When the roux is ready, add the de-glazing liquids from the pot roast and the sautéed aromatics whisk vigorously to combine the roux and the liquids so that there are no lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the red wine and simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. Add the stock and whisk well to combine. Simmer for a couple of minutes and check the seasoning. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Continue to simmer until the gravy is just short of as thick as you want it to be.

MASHED POTATOES ---------------------------------------------
Servings: 4 large to 6 small servings

Confession: the first time I saw Lynn prepare mashed potatoes using the microwave (many years ago), I had unkind thoughts about how they would turn out – very much the Doubting Debbie. I was an idiot. Follow the directions – taking into consideration the varieties of microwaves and what “full power” may mean for your microwave – and they will be great. Cooking the potatoes with the peels on and turning them as indicated is important. If you don’t, a tough skin forms on the outside of the potatoes and they can get brown and leathery on the bottom.

  • 3 to 4 medium russet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed - make sure they're quite wet when you place them in the bowl. They need this moisture to steam.
  • butter (if you are using salted butter, remember to taste before additional seasoning
  • Whole milk
  • Salt/pepper
  • Poke each unpeeled and scrubbed potato several times with a fork or a paring knife. Place the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl, large enough to hold them, covered in plastic wrap. Microwave on full power for 3 minutes. Turn each potato. Cook on full power for 5 minutes. Turn the potatoes and cook on full power for three minutes.
  • Test for doneness by sticking a paring knife into a potato. If it slides in and out easily, it’s done. If not, continue to cook in 2 minute increments. When the potatoes are fully cooked, cool them in the bowl and peel off the skins.
  • In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the potatoes to your desired texture. Add butter and milk to taste. Taste and add additional salt and fresh ground pepper as desired - I really like the taste of pepper in my mashed potatoes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and re-heat in the microwave a few minutes before serving. To re-heat, microwave on full power in 2-3 minute increments, thoroughly stirring after each instance, until hot and ready for serving.

GARLIC GREEN BEANS with TOASTED ALMONDS ---------------------------------------------
Serves 4
Equipment: 1 10-inch skillet or sauce pan with a lid.

  • 2 large handfuls of green beans, washed, with stem ends trimmed
  • 2/3 cup salted water (a couple of pinches) – this is the amount for a 10” skillet.
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 3 small or 2 medium cloves of garlic cut in a fine brunoise (1/16th inch square)
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds toasted in the oven and roughly chopped
  • Put the skillet with the salted water on medium high heat until the water comes to a simmer. Add the green beans and adjust heat until the water is simmering. Cover and cook until the water disappears, checking every few minutes.
  • Uncover the pan, turn up the heat to medium high and add a couple of tablespoons of butter. Saute the green beans for a couple of minutes. Throw in the garlic, toss well and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. It's okay if the garlic browns, but it will become burned in a flash if you're not vigilant.
  • Take the pan off-heat and toss the beans with the toasted almonds and serve immediately.
Serves 4 as a side

I always eyeball the vinegar and oil proportions, but for this dressing 40/60 (vinegar/oil) and the mustard adds to the tangy-ness. The cheese mellows that out a bit and we've found it important to mix in 1/2 of the cheese with the rest of the vinaigrette and then toss the last half in with the vinaigrette at the time you serve.

Mustard Vinaigrette with Romano Cheese
(Makes approximately 1/2 cup dressing)
  • 1.5 ounces Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, made into a paste.
  • 1/2 cup aged Romano cheese, grated on a microplane, divided
  • 2.5 ounces Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem ends, slice in half lengthwise and shred cross-wise, equal to 3 cups.
  • In a bowl big enough to whisk vigorously, add the vinegar, Dijon mustard, the garlic, 1/4 cup of the Romano cheese, and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Whisk vigorously until you have a homogenous mixture.
  • Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, continuing to whisk until you have an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and pour into a small bowl until you are ready to dress the salad.
  • When you are ready to serve, toss the shredded Brussels sprouts, in the bowl you used to make the vinaigrette with dressing add the remaining 1/4 cup of grated Romano cheese, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately.


Simple Simon said...

You and your cooking partner really know what your doing! I so appreciate the detailed instructions you give on your blog. And again, a fantastic picture.

whack patti said...

I'm a vegetarian, but the green beans look fabulous and your pictures are terrific!

Ms. Divina Loca said...

Thanks, Patti! I'm pretty good at tagging recipes when they're vegetarian, vegan or "nearly" one or the other with a simple substitution.